Wrexham Glyndŵr University has defended its position over controversial plans to sell off two plots of local land to enable almost 200 homes to be built.
The university is carrying out a major £60 million revamp to transform its campuses, including its main base on Mold Road in the town.
In order to partly fund the developments, it has entered planning applications for 70 houses on a sports field on Dean Road in Rhosnesni and 116 new homes on grazing land for horses off Gatewen Road in New Broughton.
The move has been met with opposition by both communities, who say local schools and GP surgeries will not be able to cope.
However, Professor Maria Hinfelaar, the university’s vice-chancellor, said the institution had no use for the land and the money from selling to developers would help it to compete.
She said: “We’ve had a few years where investment has been lagging behind, but now we have an opportunity to catch up and be ahead of the others.
“For Wrexham to thrive we need a thriving university and we’re here for the community.
“We thought it was important that we prepared the planning applications for what is to be done with that land.
“It does need to be development that fits with where Wrexham is going so we’re very actively talking to the council and the new chief executive. We are part of the town, so we want to do what’s right.”
A consultation on the new campus proposals closed in July which received more than 200 comments from members of the public
In light of feedback about the Dean Road site, the university is looking to gift a section of it to the community so that a sports pitch can be retained.
It has also denied claims that there is a restrictive covenant on land at Gatewen Road after carrying out checks.
Director of operations Lynda Powell said she was aware there would be strong feelings over the proposals, but stressed the need for the establishment to progress.
She said: “We always knew Dean Road was going to be the most controversial site because it’s a parcel of land that is surrounded by housing already.
“We recognise there was some community use there, and as part of the planning application we have proposed that part of that land is gifted to the local authority so it can then be retained for community use.
“The university has never used the Gatewen site for any purposes; I think there’s been a couple of horses on it.
“It doesn’t fit and we’ve never used them for academic purposes, so at a time when we’re wanting to upgrade the facilities here it makes sense to dispose of assets we’re not using and reinvest in student facilities.”
Some of the buildings at the university’s main campus date back between 60 to 70 years and will be replaced by a new learning gateway and engineering building.
In the meantime, a number of existing classrooms have already started to be refurbished.
The arts school on Regent Street will be revamped and have a 107 bed student accommodation block added.
There are also plans to demolish existing student accommodation on the Plas Coch campus to make way for affordable apartments aimed at professionals from key employers, such as Wrexham Maelor Hospital and HMP Berwyn.
Prof Hinfelaar added: “It’s all part of the dynamic of being up there as a community in what it has to offer as we’re trying to move to more of a knowledge-based economy.
“We’re also talking about investment through the North Wales Growth Deal in some of the key sectors like advanced manufacturing and digital.
“It’s all very well saying that, but we need the people or it’s not going to happen.”
The planning applications will be decided on by Wrexham Council at a future date.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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