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Yor k University campus expansion proposals slammed by lecturer

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A leading environmental consultant at the University of York has condemned plans for a £500 million campus expansion.

The scheme, which is being developed by HOK, has been slammed by biology lecturer Richard Firn, who sits on the university's environmental performance group.

Firn said the proposals, which would swallow up around 65 hectares of green-belt land, have not been thought through.

'This is perhaps the biggest development the city has ever seen and it's a mess, ' he said.

'The plans are so unimaginative and they are simply finding easy solutions.

'If you look at the development over the last five years, you will struggle to find anything with any architectural merit, and these plans don't auger well.' The current proposals would almost double the size of the university's campus and include an academic centre, commercial offices and a lake.

However, the lecturer claimed that the university should have looked at other options - including converting the vacant Terry's chocolate factory building nearby - before eyeing up the neighbouring farmland.

He added: 'If you have to build on green-belt land you should make the footprint as small as possible and design the whole scheme to be as environmentally benign as it can be. I don't see any evidence that this has been the thinking.' Nevertheless, Firn said many of the problems could have been overcome with proper consultation, and he fears the plans will now go before the ODPM.

'That saddens me because it would be a terrible waste of money, which could have been avoided, ' he said.

A group of villagers in nearby Heslington are also up in arms.

They include architects Nick Allen of Allen Tod Architecture and David Strickland.

'The people in the village are very upset, ' Firn said. 'There are some very insensitive aspects of the plan, including building a road near the old church.' But a university spokesman said: 'Nothing is set in stone as yet. This is an outline application, but work is now being done on the detail of the application because the campus needs to be up and running by 2008.' He added: 'The plans have come in for criticism from a small number of people. But it would be wrong to suggest that just because this group is vociferous it represents a majority.'

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