THE man behind the bid to bring a university has confirmed his commitment to a site near Coate Water, on the fifth day of the Coate inquiry.

John Rushforth, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of the West of England (UWE) said that neither the North Star or Oakfield sites would be suitable to UWE as they did not have a “university feeling”.

Mr Rushforth produced figures that showed development at Swindon Council’s preferred North Star site for an initial 1,000 students would cost the university £15M. This is contrast to the Coate site, which Mr Rushforth estimates would cost around £6.4M. The legal team representing Swindon Council said they would challenge the figures in cross-examination.

Mr Rushforth also ruled out the Oakfield site, saying that although UWE had considered the campus after the University of Bath pulled out it was not considered appropriate.

He said: “I am not sure that people thinking of sending their sons or daughters to university would think it was appropriate. It does not have the feel of a university campus.”

However when asked if he had actually visited the site Mr Rushforth admitted that he had only driven past.

The deputy vice-chancellor ended his evidence by saying that UWE would remain committed to bringing a university to Swindon whatever the planning inspector decided. But he reiterated that the Coate site was their ideal location and if the university were left with North Star as its only option it would be “challenging” to carry out their plans.

In cross examination, Anthony Crean, representing Swindon Council, challenged the projected student numbers put forward by Mr Rushforth, saying it was impossible for UWE to be certain of the figures. Mr Rushforth admitted that the figures were only forecasts and had some level of uncertainty but were the best estimates UWE could provide.

Mr Crean also challenged the necessity for 23 hectares of employment land to the successful operation of a university. Mr Rushforth said that securing links with businesses and with the hospital was key to the vision of the university.