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Steve Booth 27/9/02

Lancaster University, despite local opposition, is going ahead with its South West campus expansion. In conjunction with Jarvis plc, under Blair's PFI (Public Finance Initiative) scheme, 1750 new residences are set to be built on a greenfields site, and leased to Jarvis for 35 years. Students objected to the scheme, saying it would drive up rents and put pressure on city accommodation. At £68 per week, Jarvis look set to make £3.57M per year out of this deal alone, plus any rent increases that can be squeezed out of the captive clientele subsequently. The real cost of it will be met with student debt.

The story doesn't end there because more developments are now planned for campus, latest being an 'Infolab' complex, which one critic described as looking like a Dalek Factory. Local people objected to the development, people in Galgate are worried about the increased run off from the extra buildings and new roads causing floods. Meadow Park has flooded at least three times since the previous expansion in 1993. Ellel residents were worried about the impact of the new buildings, the nearest being just 150 yards away.

Then there are road safety fears, and worries about traffic delays from the A6 link road. Predictably, our objections have been brushed aside, the plans for the Jarvis build being rubber stamped through on August 27th.

Higher education is much in the news, with much concern being raised about the perceived lowering of A level standards, and the current 'Downgrading
Scandal' the worst ever crisis for the university entrance exams. Similarly, there are concerns about university standards in general; semesterisation, modularisation and the relentless expansion of places said to bring a 'dumbing down' of degrees.

This continual expansion of the university here is just one aspect of the problem. They are not the only ones building. Here in Galgate, people expressed disquiet against new developments like Crofters Fold and Carrwood Gardens. Some wags renamed the village 'Jacksonville.' Further north, near Scotforth, there are the Royal Albert and Whinney Carr housing estates, steadily spreading southwards, being given naff pretentious names like Highgrove and Maryvale. Take a look at these places and see their true awfulness; their sameness, the way builders cram as many in as possible, with just a small space in between each conformist little box. The sprawl spreads relentlessly southwards, with no real prospect of stopping unless the opposition to it can become louder, more focused and politically effective.

Then there is another threat to the countryside - the Western By-Pass. This is the big one. If this goes, the lot goes. Every so often this monument to the unsustainability and selfishness of the last century car culture keeps getting reeled out. There is a hidden agenda, of course. Should this be built, then yes there will be a string of petrol stations, out of town super-stores, DIY hypermarkets, drive thru McDonalds, and the rest of that, but also we can kiss goodbye to all the countryside in between this and the motorway.

Study their plans - Whinney Carr North 13.5 hectares, Whinney Carr S. 30 Ha, Site 35, site EC, Bailrigg Business Park, Lawson's Bridge 7.3 Ha, Burrow Beck area H4, the university expansions, Wardfield Farm Galgate.... (and these are just the ones they admitted to). Come to see the university expansion as but a small part of it.

What is needed is a concentrated opposition to this, a tight alliance between the local Green Party, existing conservation campaigns, and residents' groups. Presently we react to the council salami slicing tactics as and when they arise, but we really need to work continuously and build up momentum. Photos of the threatened countryside could be put on glossy brochures and distributed to all the voters in the threatened areas. Longer term, a campaign to get this whole area declared green belt or protected status is needed. We need to change the political balance of
the council through next May's elections. If Stan Henig and other Labour dinosaurs like Bob Clarke can lose their council seats, then anything can happen. Pat Quinton next?

Links to other articles:

16th June 2002
21st August 2002
22nd August 2002
Letter in Lancaster Citizen newspaper p 17
28th August 2002
Galgate Diary
7th September 2002,
'Local Democracy in Action', Freedom magazine, page 3
Sept 9th 2002
September 26th 2002

Local plans for greenbelt development - wherever you see any green - there's a plan.
Whinney Carr
Jarvis + the University
Western Bypass
Chelverton, Kingsway, the canal road, the supermarket + the Music Co-op

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