A BRISTOL university wants to build at Coate.

After months of speculation it emerged yesterday that the University of the West of England (UWE) is interested in building on land next door to Coate Water.

Swindon Gateway Partnership (SGP) announced at a meeting yesterday that it has an agreement with UWE to build a campus on the Coate beauty spot, also known as Commonhead.

A UWE spokesman confirmed it was in talks with the partnership about the site but denied any decision had been made.

Council leader Rod Bluh said that Swindon Council was opposed to the present plan for Coate and is committed to proving to UWE that a town centre location would be preferable.

Jean Saunders, of Swindon Friends of the Earth, said: “It is very sad that we have heard nothing before this meeting and that changes have been made to the planning application at the last minute.

“We have been given very little information and I would like to see a feasibility study from UWE setting out what they wish to do at Coate and what differences there would be with the original Bath proposal.”

South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove, said the announcement was “very foolish”.

She said: “I will be seeking an immediate meeting with UWE about this and I will be setting my opposition to this idea.

“The original planning permission that was granted by the council left the door open, which is very unfortunate.

“But I will be working with the council to convince UWE that this is not in its best interests and that the SGP cannot provide what UWE needs.

“If the university is determined to follow this path it will be opposed by both the town’s MPs, the whole of the council and people of Swindon.

“But I am keen to hear from UWE and know what its position is because this seems to me like an attempt by the developers to bounce UWE into associating with this application.”

Mr Bluh said: “We have publicly stated that our preference is for a university to be sited in the town centre and we have worked very hard to deliver a suitable site, which included a substantial financial commitment from the council.

“Ultimately the direction that UWE choose to take is down to them.

“Given the length of time it will take for any decisions about development at Commonhead to be made the council still has the opportunity to explore the potential of other locations, which it will do so vigorously and present options to UWE.

“Our position on development at Commonhead remains unchanged.

“We will only accept development there if the planning application is of the highest standard and offers the maximum possible protection to Coate Water.”