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Contentious York University expansion plans face public scrutiny

Deputy prime minister John Prescott has called in controversial plans to expand the University of York.

The £500 million campus proposals, which were developed by Terence O'Rourke, have been met with a wave of criticism and were even slammed by one of the university's own environmental experts.

Speaking to the AJ in May (AJ 26.05.05), biology lecturer Richard Firn claimed the development was 'unimaginative' and had not been thought through.

Now Prescott has decided to launch a public inquiry into the plans which would almost double the size of the university's campus and create academic buildings, commercial offices and a lake.

Among the government's concerns are whether the project, which would swallow up about 65ha of Green-Belt land, is appropriate for the area and whether the development would 'represent good design having regard to the landscape'.

The move has delighted critics of the scheme, including architects Nick Allen of Allen Tod Architecture and David Strickland, who will be given the opportunity to air their objections.

Local campaigner Jeffrey Stern has welcomed the launch of the inquiry. He said: '[This] will allow every issue relating to campus to be debated openly and in front of an impartial judge.

'It will test all the university's claims about demand and supply and their integrity over sustainability issues; they will not be able to bluster or fudge but will have to justify their figures and ideas.'

He added: 'We don't know when the date will be but we are ready for the fray.'

As reported previously HOK has also been asked to work the project, however the AJ understands none of the practice's proposals are subject to the call-in.

by Richard Waite

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