THE duo that hope to represent Swindon in Westminster have set out their opposition to bringing part of the University of the West of England to Swindon.

Prospective Conservative parliamentary candidates for North and South Swindon, Coun Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland oppose the scheme for different reasons, but their strong views put them at odds with the town’s councillors and MPs.

Coun Tomlinson is worried about the effect a university would have on affordable housing in the town, while Mr Buckland thinks UWE’s scheme is “the wrong plan at the wrong time”.

At a cabinet meeting Coun Tomlinson chose to abstain from a vote on committing the North Star campus for a university.

He explained said he was as concerned as his colleagues about fighting off development at Coate, but did not share their view that having a university in Swindon was an entirely positive development.

He said: “My concern is the effect that a university would have on affordable housing in the town.

“I am concerned about affordable accommodation being hoovered up by landlords wanting to attract students.

“One of the things that makes Swindon attractive in respect of Bristol or Oxford or Bath is the cost of housing and I am worried about the effect a university would have on that, and whether we would see businesses leaving Swindon.

“If they could build a campus for 10,000 students I would have less concern.”

Mr Buckland, prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Swindon, said he had not been impressed by the “sketchy” plans unveiled so far by UWE.

He said: “What is important to me is not creating some identikit university building but developing something sustainable and that Swindon can be proud of. I would like the debate to be extended beyond just the physical building into what kind of education the university would provide and whether we can get the right people to do the job.

“I don’t want people to say ‘I went to Swindon because I couldn’t get in anywhere else’. I want Swindon to be the best.

“My vision for Swindon is for what I call centres of excellence which could utilise the best of Swindon and extend things that are already happening at the moment.

“For instance I would like to see a medical training centre aligned with the hospital, or a centre of engineering to reflect the excellent engineering skills already present in Swindon.

“I would also love to see some form of higher education facility around IT in the town.”

Michael Wills, North Swindon MP, said: “The town desperately needs a university.

“It has got to be on the right site and I hope that everyone can work together to get the university the town deserves.”