The University of Lincoln has withdrawn its outline planning application for a major new housing development and educational facilities at its Riseholme campus north of Lincoln.
The proposal would have seen much of the campus redeveloped, including the construction of up to 180 new houses.
The university sent a formal letter announcing the withdrawal to Riseholme Parish Council stating that “while the proposed development only encompassed 5% of the site, we do understand the degree of opposition to the proposals from within the local community.” It will now conduct a “review of the options for the campus”.
The university’s £20 million masterplan would have seen parts of the current Riseholme College campus demolished. It was initially proposed to be replaced with 750 new homes (later scaled back to 180), as well as agri-food, science, sport and heritage facilities at the campus.
The plans were met with objections from current tenants Bishop Burton College, a number of local councillors, the Member of Parliament, Sir Edward Leigh, and farmers. At the end of 2016, the Department for education also announced intentions to bring legal action against the plans.
Ms Elly Sample, Director of Communications, Development & Marketing at the University of Lincoln, said:
“Our Riseholme Campus remains essential to our teaching and research activities, not least as the headquarters for our Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology whose work is driving innovation across our food and farming industries.
“We recognise that this application – particularly the housing proposal for a pocket of brownfield land at the core of the campus – has caused concerns locally. It was not supported by the recent Examination in Public of the draft Local Plan.
“As such we are withdrawing the outline application in its entirety to give time to reflect and reassess the options.
“We will work with local residents, the parish council and other stakeholders to discuss jointly a future for Riseholme that meets the University’s needs and the aspirations of local people and which is sensitive to the campus’ very special landscape and heritage.”
In response to the announcement, Councillor Giles McNeill, who represents Riseholme on West Lindsey District Council, said:
“I welcome the news from the University of Lincoln that they are withdrawing their plans for substantial housing development at the Riseholme campus.
“I hope that they truly mean to engage properly with the local community as they look at reviewing the plans for the campus.
“Their record on this is a cause for serious concern and the fact they did not have the courtesy to inform me separately speaks volumes for the continuing inability of the University to engage with all stakeholders in a proper and appropriate way.”
Bishop Burton College has welcomed the news, but says the college has had no assurances that its lease on the campus would be extended post 2020.
Jeanette Dawson OBE, Chief Executive and Principal of Riseholme College, a part of Bishop Burton College, said:
“I have been made aware the University of Lincoln has withdrawn its current planning application, pending future consultation.
“Whilst I welcome this news, the College has still not had any assurances from the University that it will grant long-term leases to the buildings and facilities post 2020 to allow us to continue delivering the agricultural further education needed at Riseholme to train Lincolnshire’s future skilled workforce.
“Indeed, we are still having to operate with only annual licences to allow our agriculture students access to the farm for vital practical work.
“There is also the on-going issue of a legal challenge by the Government in the form of the Education & Skills Funding Agency, which has publicly stated it is taking steps against the University to enforce a legally-binding ‘asset deed’ to protect the future use of Riseholme for the delivery of agricultural further education.
“I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the University to discuss its intentions for the future of Riseholme, including the delivery of agricultural further education – which is so crucial for Lincolnshire.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the local Member of Parliament, welcomed the University of Lincoln’s withdrawal of its planning application for the Riseholme campus.
“I’m relieved to hear this application has been withdrawn,” Sir Edward said. “I hope that whatever will be proposed for Riseholme is done in proper consultation with local residents and other stakeholders.”
“Importantly the University of Lincoln has yet to honour its commitment to Riseholme College, however, to have access to the agricultural estate for land-based education there. This has been a great disappointment for those of us who want to see this vital role continue.”
“We have to make sure our young people are given the skills and training they need to secure Lincolnshire’s future as the breadbasket of England. I hope the University of Lincoln will urgently open up a dialogue with Bishop Burton College so that we can see land-based education flourishing at Riseholme past 2020 when the College’s lease expires.”