The University of Kent has been accused of ignoring residents’ concerns over its expansion plans.
People living in the St Michael’s area of the city between the campus and Forty Acres Road are particularly worried about a 150-bedroom hotel and conference centre on the southern slopes of the university.
The university has consulted with residents about its proposals. They will have another chance to raise their concerns about the its masterplan next month.
But Prof Rick Norman, chairman of the St Michael’s Road Area Residents Association, described that the university’s insistence that a hotel and conference centre form a key part of the proposals as “depressing”.
He said: “The irony is that everything else in the masterplan makes it clear why this is a bad idea. Throughout the successive versions of the masterplan, the emphasis has been on preserving and enhancing the green landscape setting of the campus, with new build concentrated in the campus heart.
“At this latest stage we have again been told that the aim is to restore the traditional landscape of the southern slopes, perhaps re-creating some of the traditional agricultural features such as orchards, and working with the local community to achieve this.
“But you can’t put a 150-bed hotel in a field and then talk about restoring the natural landscape character of the rest of the field.
“The hotel would radically change the character of the whole field, and would also limit the public access which is so much appreciated by local people.
“Building on the one field would also set a precedent for the other two fields which would inevitably be hard to resist.”
The university says its masterplan contains short-term proposals looking forward to 2021 and those it labels medium-term which look forward to 2031.
Its planned hotel and conference centre form an element of the medium-term plans.
University spokesman Sandy Fleming told the Canterbury Journal: “Among the schemes suggested is the proposal to locate a 150-bed hotel and conference centre to the south of University Road.
“The is a medium-term proposal and takes into consideration feedback received from residents, the business community and other interested parties during previous public consultations as well as advice received from experts from the hotel and conference sectors.
“The university recognises the levels of interest that surround this proposal and will be holding a meeting for representatives of the local residents groups and others in early November to discuss the proposal in more detail.”
There will be four opportunities for members of the public to discuss the university’s proposals. They are: