Counsellor Barrie Thompson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group on Swindon Council, says Swindon needs the University of Bath to set up a campus in the town and the best place is the Gateway site between the Great Western Hospital and Coate Water Country Park.
I am opposed to any development at Coate Water Country Park, other than enhancements to protect the park and provide facilities for the many thousands of visitors.
However, that does not apply to the land surrounding the country park, because my concern has to be the long term well being of Swindon and its hinterland. That was why I supported the building of the Great Western Hospital several years ago to serve over 350,000 people. A new university will serve a great many more.
Why? Bath University is one of the top 10 universities in Britain, with a worldwide reputation. Its presence in Swindon can only bring benefits of economic sustainability to the town which far outweigh the dis-benefits of building on the land in question.
All towns and cities with a university with an international reputation have sustainable economies. Swindon has been successful in diversifying from its manufacturing base, but the advent of the global economy means that it is going to be difficult to maintain economic viability in years to come.
Therefore if we re-create Swindon as a place for first class research and education, this will create many sustainable jobs to service what will become a learning city.
I am convinced that this will ensure future generations of Swindonians will continue to enjoy a reasonable life style.
The argument used by the anti-Gateway lobby that the university should be built in the town centre is false. There is insufficient land for a full size university campus unless you support the demolition of existing houses and building many more houses on the outskirts of Swindon. As for the suggestion that a multi-story building would suffice shows lack of understanding of the real needs of students to reach their highest achievements.
It is also a false argument that we should stop the expansion of Swindon. It will continue to grow for many decades to come, to accommodate both new residents and the expanding population of the town. We are all living much longer; some say that by the end of the century the normal life expectancy will be 100 years.
What we need to do is plan expansion properly. There needs to be a reasonable buffer between the Coate Water and the Gateway development; we need to increase the density of housing provision within the urban envelope and we need to provide large public open spaces that ensure people living in the urban landscape have a decent environment within which to live.
This may mean that some of the brown field and town centre sites are used for that purpose, as for example, the Shaw Forest Country Park site to which the council recommitted itself last July.
We also need to ensure that the developers pay a heavy price and do not get away with fat profits at the expense of the people of Swindon. Anybody who like me had to suffer the keynote speaker, a developer, at the Mayor?s dinner in June will know what I mean. Developers do not create communities, they produce a product for sale. It is we the people who create communities.
Developers must be made to put back something substantial for the people of Swindon and its surrounding area. I do not accept the premise that if we demand too much the developers will not build in Swindon.
We have been reasonably successful in the past. Many of the town?s leisure facilities, country parks and wildlife sanctuaries have come about by making those demands on developers. For the sake of our children and grandchildren we now need to take charge of Swindon?s future sustainability and a first class university is the key to that.
I would suggest that if we are unsuccessful in attracting the university to the Gateway site, by 2030 it will be covered in large measure by houses and the economy of Swindon will be in decline.
For arguments for and against the Coate proposals, go to: