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University Academy 92, the sports-centric Lancaster campus under construction in greater Manchester, faces an increasingly uncertain future after the Conservative Council that championed the project fell to the Labour party, slipping into no overall control and with Labour as the largest party
The University Academy 92 project is a partnership between Lancaster University, Trafford Council and the “Class of 92” footballers, consisting of Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and other famous footballers
Sean Anstee, the council leader until last week and one-time candidate for the Greater Manchester mayor, personally championed the scheme, investing £12 million of council money and describing it as a “game-changer” for the area:
“The proposal will add £26m per year to the local Trafford economy, helping to create jobs and build on the thriving community here in Stretford and Old Trafford. “
The new council will decide the shape of the new project, which has been blighted by reductions and redesigns following mounting local opposition to the developments.
A planned “vertical student village” had to be scaled back after a petition opposing the development amassed thousands of signatures.
And an organised campaign against the development of football pitches on “green belt land” picked up the support of Labour Councillor; raising questions as to the support of a Labour led administration to the development. She said there were “unanswered questions”:
““The council are paying for all the works in terms of drainage and so on – and there is still some scepticism as to if that will work or whether it will be a wasted investment. “What happens if it is, and that money can’t be recouped through the lease with Salford City?
“I would also like to see a much better level of consultation with local residents and for the community benefit for current Stretford residents to be much more at the forefront of the application.”
UA92 has also been forced to reprint its prospectus after the advertising standards authority held up a complaint about misleading advertising, after the university made claims about 4G football pitches, that were still subject to requests for planning permission.
The football pitches will be a point of contention for the new council. Gary Neville has been using his Twitter platform to attack campaigners who seek “save Turn Moss” (the greenbelt-area scheduled to be built on), retweeting messages that bemoaned the issue being turned into a “political football”.
The fall of Trafford council was a low point for the Conservatives in May’s local elections, which saw the governing party exceed expectations in the Midland towns like Nuneaton, while losing swathes of south west London to the Liberal Democrats.
Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council were not up for election, with the next polls taking place in one year’s time. However by-elections for the University and Scotforth rural ward will be taking place on the 17th of May.