Falmouth University Expansion
The number of students studying at Falmouth University is set to increase after Cornwall Council’s strategic planning committee gave the proposal the go-ahead.
Following a two-hour long debate and an eight to seven vote the council decided it was in Cornwall’s best interests as a whole to allow the student cap to be lifted, allowing Falmouth University and Exeter University to raise the numbers of students at Penryn from 5,000 to 7,500 full time equivalent students by 2022.
The raising of the cap would see a 50% increase in student numbers.
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The extra students will also be accommodated in a new purpose-built 1,050 student village at Penryn, which was also approved by councillors by 12 votes to one and three abstentions.
Falmouth and Exeter universities have received approval to raise the number of students in the town from 5,000 to 7,500 by 2022.
The student cap lift had raised concerns from residents in Falmouth, Mabe and Penryn, about the impact on doctors’ surgeries, parking in residential areas as well as housing – in particular the number of homes being turned into houses of multiple occupation for students and the swathe of large scale student housing schemes that have been put forward.
It even led to a protest rally in Falmouth.
However, despite more than 250 objections and vigorous opposition from some members of the strategic planning committee, the application was approved.
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A spokeswoman for Falmouth University welcomed the decision, saying: “We are pleased that, following constructive and positive discussions, this application has been approved by Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee.
“The Penryn Campus is world-renowned as a centre of teaching and research excellence, providing the platform for students to reach their full potential.
“The application that has been approved is one small part of the universities of Falmouth and Exeter’s deep commitment to increasing access to Higher Education, particularly amongst the young people of Cornwall, as well as stimulating economic growth, raising aspirations and providing new and innovative opportunities for our local communities.”
Falmouth residents protesting against the proposed rise in student numbers at Falmouth University.
Despite vehement opposition from parish councils in Mabe and Falmouth Town Council, councillor Mary May said the university had brought growth, not only to the town but to Cornwall as a whole.
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She said: “How can we stifle this growth? However, I hope the university will listen to the concerns of the people of Mabe, Penryn and Falmouth with big ears.”
Cllr Andrew Long voted in favour of the application, but insisted there should be a warning to the university that it is “living on borrowed time” and needs to honour its ‘hub and rim’ approach and develop students campuses in other parts of Cornwall to alleviate some of the issues raised by concerned residents.
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Cllr Steve Chamberlain said to have only 25% of its students in purpose-built student accommodation was an appalling ratio.
He said: “What’s being proposed is a that 50% of students will now be in student accommodation on site. It’s not going to resolve the problems, but it will help reduce it.
“We should be asking for a higher ratio. I’m not happy with the application but I’m happy with the university’s growth as it is good for Cornwall.”
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Cllr Alan Jewell said that, while he supported Falmouth University and the work it does to promote higher education take-up by local children, he insisted that to put so many students in one area would lead to problems for residents and facilities.
He said: “To put so many students in one area will only go bang and it has already gone bang. Falmouth is already creaking at the seams.”
Fellow opponent Cllr Chris Batters added: “The issue is going to arise again in five years’ time when the university asks for further expansion. I can’t support this application.”
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Opponent parish councillor Barbara Hewitt Silk said residents of Made were opposed to the university’s further student growth, saying the student cap lift had more to do with ‘bad management and delusions of grandeur’ from the university.
Plans for a new student village at Penryn have been approved by Cornwall Council.
Parish councillor David Saunby said Falmouth would not be able to absorb such a large number of students because it is not ‘Bristol, Cardiff or Birmingham’.
He added: “While I welcome the university to the town and the benefits it has brought there is a limit ti the number of students we can accommodate. No more please.”