A decision over Coleg Menai’s bid to move its Bangor campus could be taken out of the hands of Gwynedd Council following complaints that the process is taking too long.
January saw the authority receive a change of use planning application for the Tŷ Menai building at Parc Menai, also involving internal renovations to allow the multi million pound relocation.
But frustrated at delays in planners coming to a conclusion, as well as officers’ concerns over aspects of the plans, the college has now submitted an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, citing non-decision.
According to college bosses, despite being based at Ffriddoedd since the late 1950s, urgent maintenance works to bring the “outdated” facilities up to current standards would not be cost effective.
Claiming that the poor condition of the Ffriddoedd site buildings is viewed as “an overwhelming repair and maintenance problem”, the group estimates that £18m would need to be spent on it merely to remain weatherproof and operational with an “urgent need” to find a solution by 2022.
But frustration over a lack of decision, with the proposals on the desks of Gwynedd Council’s planning department since January, the final say could now be down to the Planning Inspectorate due to authority planners harbouring concerned about aspects of the plans.
In its submission documents, Coleg Menai noted: “In view of the foregoing and the detailed case in favour of the proposal set out in the application and the supporting documents we consider that the application should, by now, have been approved.
“The delay in determination combined with the view given by the Local Planning Authority that the proposal cannot be supported leads us to the conclusion that an appeal against non-determination is the only remedy which will ensure that a timely decision is made in relation to this important higher education development.
“In the absence of an appeal there is concern that the proposed development, which will bring back into use a vacant site and is a key part of GLlM development strategy for higher education will be unreasonably delayed further.”
Previous plans to relocate the campus were withdrawn in 2019, but these latest plans follow the relocation of several courses, including its engineering department, to Coleg Menai’s Llangefni site in 2019.
The Tŷ Menai building stands just a stone’s throw away from Coleg Menai’s Art and Design facility, which is already based at Parc Menai.
The project, they say, would bring together all of the existing Bangor-based Coleg Menai departments and administrative functions, creating a centre of excellence for creative and digital media with courses ranging from art and music technology, to games design and TV production all available on the same Parc Menai site.
Responding to Coleg Menai’s decision to appeal, a Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the applicant’s decision, and the council will be feeding our comments into the Planning Inspectorate’s appeals process.”
Student numbers at Bangor have already declined over recent years, with the opening of the new Engineering Centre of Excellence in Llangefni resulting in a 30% drop, set to fall further when the Bangor Gas Centre moves into a new building currently under construction at Llangefni.
But with the proposal set to consolidate all teaching of creative and digital studies, with 200 learners being relocated from Llangefni to Bangor, if approved it’s expected that around 520 students would be enrolled at the new Bangor campus at Tŷ Menai.
Tŷ Menai was built in 2004 at a cost of £17.8m by the former Welsh Development Agency (WDA) as part of its Technium programme, designed to provide fledgling science and technology start-ups with office accommodation and business support.