As space becomes an increasing problem and monetary issues place profit over promise, residents prepare for the worst but hope for the best in their fight against Falmouth University’s expansion plans

 

Surrounded by students in the campus library I see they are but a minority in the greater Cornish Community. They are a minority however that is becoming ever more prevalent and set to grow when Falmouth University implements plans to expand its student population from four thousand to over six thousand by 2020. An astounding increase of over fifty per cent.

To achieve this it intends to hire specialist sales staff to help reach this target. Falmouth University is the top arts school in the country and feels naturally that it’s time to build on its successes. The extra two thousand minds rolling in through the doors will bring new ideas, new inspiration and new artistic routes. They will also unknowingly, put a huge dent in relations between the Falmouth/Exeter University partnership and Falmouth and Penryn Town Councils, two organisations fighting against corporate conspirators that are slowly destroying this seaside town.

The basis of their argument is: ‘Where will all these new students go?’. Penryn Campus, Exeter and Falmouth’s biggest accommodation site built in 2002, is already running at full capacity and cannot fit any more students. The decision by the universities to take a bigger proportion of the Falmouth and Penryn housing market is an unpopular one. As a result of their investments there are fewer and fewer homes that could be sold to long-term residents such as small families who are being denied houses by landlords because more revenue is obtained through student letting. The knock-on effect of the increased student population might mean more revenue for landlords and bars, but also a lowered quality of life for local residents dealing with all the noises made by students. It isn’t the students that the local people are angry at though; it’s the universities and their thirst for profit which is bringing more students in and causing increasing indignation. The students are angry too. Recently the FXU, student union for both universities formed an alliance with both Penryn and Falmouth Town Councils to protest against the planned influx of students until both universities work out a compromise over building work.

To find the genesis of the troubles we must first go back to the start, in 2002, when construction work began on the Penryn site. The universities agreed to build on certain sites but not others to obtain a balance with the local community. Now the universities want to expand. They are breaking their promises and are in the process of obtaining planning permission for the sites. Rumours, though they are only rumours at the moment, are abound that the Jehovah’s Witness Church across the road from the bottom of the campus is also under threat.

This problem is not new however. Universities all over the country are constantly struggling to find a town and gown balance. They want to keep the local people happy but at the same time they are like any other business, profit is profit. Brighton University faces similar problems, a rapidly growing seaside university with an expanding student population but discontented local community who do not enjoy the prospect of being neighbours to students. To combat this dissatisfaction, Brighton University is reportedly purchasing the land and associated buildings of an ex-army barracks in town; recycling it to build new residences for students.

The question then is raised: ‘Why don’t Falmouth and Exeter do the same, buy some disused land and build on that?’ Here’s the answer: there is no space.

Brighton University is at the heart of the ‘City of Brighton and Hove’ whereas Penryn and Falmouth are miniscule in comparison. One of the main reasons the local residents are so angry is because Falmouth and Exeter are taking up what land is left. The councils are fighting for every inch of ground in this David versus Goliath property battle.

Sadly, it is a battle that the townspeople are losing. The FXU and Penryn and Falmouth Town Councils are doing all they can to resist the transformation of their popular town by greater monetary and political forces, but to little avail. Yet, there is hope, as negative as reports may be, the fact that they have the students behind them is a great help and, to use an overused adage, they may have lost a battle or two but their war still rages on.