17 February 2018
Michele Kondakor gives her thoughts.
NWHC revealed plans to redevelop their Nuneaton site on 8th February 2018, when a 'consultation' with residents was announced for the 13th Februaury. To my knowledge, there had been no previous conversation with the local residents regarding possible options.
I am very concerned about the plans on a number of levels. Despite the college claiming otherwise, I believe it is being driven by money. It is common knowledge that the college is in debt; I have been told by someone today, that it owes £12million. Sonehow, I will need to try and verify that. How much money was wasted on the short-lived Midland Studio School at Bermuda Park? How much money is being pumped into the failing Midlands Academy Trust?
These are some of the issues, in no particular order.
1. If there is a need for consolidation, other educational uses should be considered first. The college has been gradually reducing the number of courses they offer and these plans suggest that they would probably actually prefer to withdraw from the site altogether. I understand that engineering courses could be delivered from an industrial estate, which frequently have very poor public transport access, but education is more than just learning. Coming together with other students studying different subjects has an important role too.
2. Other uses do not seem to have been considered. It would make a good site for a new school, rather than us losing greenfields for a school at some point in the future. Small start-up units e.g. for high-tech businesses would also be a good idea. We need more employment opportunities in the area and it would seem an ideal fit, that could benefit both students and employers.
3. The site has not been brought forward as a potential development site in the draft Borough Plan , which is just about to be considered by a Planning Inspector.
4. Access is very unsuitable for housing. Neither access points, at Glebe Lane or Higham Lane are suitable for two-way traffic ( plus pedestrians and cyclists). The visibility at both these access points is far from ideal.
5. The housing would generate more traffic in an already congested area, with the knock-on effect of creating more air pollution.
6. The loss of green sapce is a big concern. There has been no consideration of the beneficial effects of green space, both for students and local residents.
7. The college claims that they would still offer sports courses but seem to be planning on using all their own sports pitches for development. The boards on dispaly at the consultation implied that the sports pitch would be off-site but didn't say where. My guess would be that they are thinking of using some of the facilities by Ambleside Sports and Social Club. I have no idea if that conversation has taken place. There was talk of a 3G pitch. If this is needed, why not put it on the land they already have?
8. With the amount of housing already being built around St Nicolas and Weddington, the population increase would surely lead to the need for more college places not less?
9. The time scales for submitting a planning application and getting approval seemed totally unrealistic. There seems to be very little time between this consultation and expecting to submit an application, to consider all the comments and amend plans accordingly. It would a relatively large application , which tend to take quite a while to be considered by Highways and others.
10. If the application were to go ahead, there does not appear to be any indication that there would small starter homes that are truly affordable or bungalows suitable for older people that are needed.
11. Again, if this was to go ahead, how would the college manage whilst it is in the middle of a building site?
12. I am concerned by the number of roles that the Principal, Marion Plant has. Her lengthy declaration of interests, as found on the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership website, makes me question how much time she can actually dedicate to running the college.
So, what can we do? Firstly, somehow we need to verify some facts, such as the deficit. If anyone has advice on how to do this, please let me know. I shall be writing to our MP, Marcus Jones as I believe that it is, at least in part, government policies that have led us here. Further education needs to be properly funded. If a planning application does come forward to the Borough Council, we need to act quickly to respond, with good arguments against.
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