The government has ruled out stepping in to prevent London Metropolitan University’s proposed sale of its Sir John Cass Faculty of Art in east London
The institution has proposed the sale as part of a drive to consolidate all of its operations at its Holloway Road campus in north London - a move which will see the Cass School of Architecture leave its current home in Commercial Road.
In a debate last week in the House of Lords, The Earl of Clancarty asked government whip Baroness Evans of Bowes Park whether the government would intervene to halt the sale.
Replying at the dispatch box, the minister said: ’My Lords, the strength of our universities rests on their autonomy and government is, rightly, discouraged by statute from direct intervention in their affairs.
‘The consolidation of the estate of London Metropolitan University, as set out in its One Campus, One Community strategy, is entirely a matter for the university.’
Pressing further, the earl said: ’My Lords, does the minister appreciate that, with the intended move to a single campus, London Met is saying that it cannot support the Cass, the loss of which would be a tragedy for art design and manufacture in this country?
’Will she accept that the Cass should remain in the East End, where it belongs, as an independent centre of excellence—a solution that the government could expedite, as they now own one of the three campus buildings? This is a matter for the government.’
However, the baroness repeated that it was for the university to make the decision.
Labour peer and former EastEnders actor Lord Cashman told the Lords that he believed there was no necessity for the proposed move and that the closure of the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art was not in the long-term interests of east London.
Labour peer Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town asked what steps the government would take to preserve the current building if it was vacated.
She said: ’It and the Whitechapel Gallery alone have survived the replacement of our physical heritage by ever-more anonymous, overpriced skyscrapers, which serve neither the local community nor the built environment.’
Again, the minister replied that this was ‘not a matter for the government’.