EDGE Hill University’s bid to make changes to approved expansion plans were voted through last week – despite strong criticism of its approach to planning applications.
The university applied to vary planning permission for the £43m redevelopment of its St Helens Road campus, having been previously given the green light for the scheme back in February.
The changes include realigning access roads, relocating sports courts and pitches and changing the phasing of the scheme’s creation.
At a meeting of West Lancs planning committee last week, Sue Evans spoke on behalf of Ormskirk Community Partnership claiming the changes were “excessively damaging” to the environment and calling for rejection or deferral until a new independent environmental assessment was made. Her calls were backed by Cllr Adrian Owens, who had concerns over relocating floodlights closer to Ruff Wood.
But Cllr Roger Bell said that anyone on the site visit could see the amendments were better, not worse, and councillors voted to approve the plans in line with officers’ recommendations.
However, there was strong criticism for the university’s approach to planning applications, led by council leader Cllr Ian Grant, who said that “at times it seems with Edge Hill that it’s a case of ‘we will get what we can then later get what we want’... it’s absolutely frustrating the university has chosen to amend something they knew was contentious”. He said an application of this nature “suggests a bit of a backdoor approach”, but added that as the application was only for minor amendments, they would have great difficulty refusing it, “however frustrating it is”.
Cllr David O’ Toole said there was a “war of attrition” with Edge Hill, where “time and time again we ask for a five-year plan and never get it.”
But Cllr John Hodson said there was far more to be gained by developing a “positive relationship rather than confrontation”.
Following the decision, Edge Hill vice chancellor John Cater said: “In any major capital development, it is common practice for minor amendments and improvements to be discussed and agreed following the granting of planning permission, and the university's submission reflected this practice.
“It was pleasing to note that professional officers considered the revised application was ‘an improvement’ on that already agreed, with the sports pitch being moved up to 10m further away from the road, and manufacturers' specifications indicating that ‘there will be no lighting which directly reaches Ruff Lane’. In addition, the ‘acceptable’ minor realignment of the internal road, according to officers, is ‘not any wider or longer than that originally approved’ and with “no greater visual impact”, and will provide safer access for delivery vehicles to the site.”
Mr Cater added that while construction work had been delayed for some months, the university was delighted it was now able to press on and create the additional facilities.