As a former employee of CAMSFC may I make a few observations?
The Corporation does indeed have a duty to maximise revenue from the disposal of college assets, but not to the extent that they need to subscribe to the abuse of financial power by ASDA so as to, in effect, over-rule local planning policies by expensive appeals. CAMSFC could simply have had a competitive bidding process for the land in question, subject to planning permission within the current planning policy, that is, for residential use. This would have discharged the legal obligations of the Corporation.
The Marple campus does have a real feel of serving local students, from Marple, Offerton, Bredbury, New Mills, Hayfield, Glossop, Chapel and other villages and towns nearby. It is local without being parochial and it is a shame that the current Senior Managers of CAMSFC do not seem to have a feel for this, nor for the responsibilities that it entails, especially to residents of Marple. Nevertheless they and the Corporation should get credit for a committment to maintaining a campus in Marple.
However my real concerns are not about the Hibbert Lane site, but about Buxton lane:
• It is a very very wet site.
• There is at least one filled in watercourse that runs across the site.
• Flooding of part of the car park is a regular occurrance.
• When, following the Disability Discrimination Act, a lift was constructed at the end of the tower block, it was subject to delays in construction, due to flooding of the excavated shaft.
• The Tower Block, which, in the artist’s depiction of the new construction, has a central place, has a limited life expectancy. It is quite an old building for a tall block in continual educational use, and was the subject of remedial work a few years ago. A request to see the professional advice that CAMSFC has received, over the past decade, about the structural integrity and life expectancy of the block, would be a fruitful line of enquiry, I would think.
Has there been any proper expenditure by CAMSFC on a substantial, in-depth, civil engineer’s investigation of the suitability of the Buxton Lane site for the heavy duty construction, and use, that is anticipated by the college?
There is little point in obtaining funds from a redevelopment of Hibbert Lane if the new college buildings that are planned cannot be built to time and cost, or in a way that allows sustainable use into the future.
Even if it can be constructed, it will require expert project management, and I doubt that the college has the expertise to do in house. There is a distinct possibility that, if the development is allowed, that there will be delays and costly over-runs. A general question relating to whether the SMT of the college have done a financial risk assessment of project delays would be helpful.
It is easy to forget that even though it has two campuses the college is a single corporate entity. The Cheadle Estate, although not without issues, is in relatively good shape. The quality of the Marple Estate is poor and deteriorating. The Corporation relies heavily on the Principal, Deputy and the Director of Finance and Resources, yet I fear that none has a good appreciation of the history of the estates, certainly none was in post when the old Margaret Danyers College had a tower block of its own, at the end of North Downs Road, Cheadle Hulme, which served as a point of entry to the campus, indeed the gateway is still in place.
This block was condemned about 1997/8, and subsequently razed. The new build followed. The new Cheadle Campus was eventually fenced in for security reasons and the old Downs Road site was effectively abandoned and allowed to return to green land, (although I think the hard base of the site remains to this day, below a thin covering of vegetation). Indeed I believe that its dis-use may have been a condition of the new build at Cheadle.
If so it needs to be reconsidered. The footprint of the old Downs Road site is quite large, embracing an old car park, roundabout, service road, the space occupied by the block, plus sports hall and refectory. There was also a miniature railway behind. The value of this as a residential development site could be substantial: It isn’t geniune green land, and a residential development would have little or no adverse impact on the area. Furthermore, as it is now completely seperate from the main campus at Cheadle, development could take place without any impact on teaching and learning.
The combined value of the Downs Road site and Hibbert Lane as residential development sites could be quite close to the £13M offered by ASDA, perhaps even in excess.
No-one likes the prospect of development on their doorstep, but developing the Downs Road site is clearly the lesser of two evils, compared to ASDA driving a coach and horses through SMBC development policy, and drastically altering the make up Marple village. The college and SMBC should be requested, as a matter of urgency, to re-evaluate the development status of the Downs Road site. For those with a sense of history the prospect of an unused asset at Cheadle, dating back to the days of Magaret Danyers College, being used to help ensure the future survival of a modern Marple Campus is a nice touch!