5th January 2017
By Anne North
A decision over the number of students at Falmouth University has been deferred.
After a two-hour debate, Cornwall’s planners voted 12-8 not to make a decision today.
During an impassioned debate, reflecting the concerns of many local people, one councillor said he feared Penryn would be “swamped” with students while developers ignored the need for affordable housing.
The university had been seeking a 50% increase in student numbers, from its original “cap” of 5,000 to 7,500.
Councillor Jackie Bull said planners were faced with “a huge strategic decision, affecting the whole of Cornwall.”
Several councillors said that while there were clear economic benefits from the university, there were also social costs.
Councillor Candy Atherton, who 20 years ago helped lead the campaign to create the university, said that in some areas 90% of accommodation was now targeted at students. Urging planners to reject the application for an increase in student numbers, she said it was “a lottery as to what kind of student you will get living next door to you” – explaining that while some were considerate, others like to practice playing the drums at 4am.
Councillor Alan Jewell said local people in Penryn now stood now chance of finding a home, as landlords and developers sought the maximum return on their investments. “Penryn will be swamped with students if this goes ahead,” he said.
A number of councillors said they thought the university had been built in the wrong place, and that the Camborne-Redruth area might have been a better choice.
Councillor John Bastin said the demand for student accommodation was already “spilling out” to surrounding villages. Councillor Malcolm Brown said he did not want the proposal to be rejected – “that would send an appalling message” – but suggested the application should be deferred so that the university could clarify its longer-term intentions. Councillor Robert Webber then proposed a deferral.