The leader of Hastings Borough Council said there has been ‘enormous support’ for keeping the University of Brighton in the town.
Speaking at a meeting last Wednesday (February 10) Peter Chowney said more than £12m of public money had been invested to help the university build in Hastings.
“That was money that was given to Hastings for regeneration in Hastings, not to be taken back for regeneration in Brighton,” said Cllr Chowney.
“So any proposal that involves closing the university in Hastings I think would be wrong and we will strongly resist that as it is an important part of the regeneration.”
Cllr Chowney said the council was told the university was carrying out a ‘low-level review’ but believed it was about improving the campus, attracting more students and increasing its presence.
“However, a week ago last Monday, we were told by the new vice-chancellor that the review wasn’t about that at all,” he said.
“There were four options in the review, two of which were closing the university in Hastings all together and that was quite definitely an option.”
He explained to members it was an accountancy-led review with ‘very little chance’ of external input.
“It will end in February and a decision will be made in March,” he said.
“That is all we were told.
“All very short scale and no opportunity for input from the community, the council, businesses or anything like that.
“We were very unhappy with that I have to say and since then we’ve had enormous support across all sectors for keeping the university in Hastings.
“People have been very outspoken about it.
“The Chamber of Commerce, people from the voluntary sector, East Sussex County Council, Rother District Council, all the written letters very strongly in support of the university in Hastings.
“The university in Hastings has been an essential part of the town’s regeneration and we must keep it here.”
Cllr Chowney said the council would be putting a case to the university for staying in Hastings.
“If they want it or not, we’re going to do that and present that case even if they haven’t asked for it,” he said.
He also praised the unusual level of cross-party co-operation on the issue, with both Labour and the Conservatives using the same graphics for their campaigns.
“Amber has been very strongly supportive and I want to say my thanks to her for how she came in very quickly, very strongly supportive of the university and is determined as the rest of us to keep it here,” he said.
“Of course, she’s a good ally to have as cabinet ministers can pull strings.
“So I think across the whole town, everyone wants to keep the university here.”
Saying the university ‘must stay’ he added: “We will keep the university here, I hope, and I think with the amount of strength of feeling there is, I think we can.
“We will keep fighting this.”
The future of the university was also discussed briefly at last week’s Rother District Council planning committee meeting as the North Bexhill Access Road was granted planning permission.
Developer SeaChange said the road would open up opportunities for housing and business space.
However, Cllr Stuart Earl questioned whether the potential loss of the university campus would have a knock-on effect.
“If the education does not stand up, the well-paid jobs will not come here,” he said.
“We could end up with a lot of warehouses which do not employ many people.”
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