Cllrs Salim Desai and Javed Iqbal made the call during a meeting of Preston City Council’s planning committee, at which a new specialist maths college was given the green light.
The facility will be built on the site of the former Job Centre on London Road and is set to open in September 2022.
The existing building – known as Barry House – is currently being demolished to make way for the state-of-the art college, where up to 260 students with a passion for numbers will study maths, further maths and related options such as physics and computer science.
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The project is a joint venture between Lancaster University and Preston’s Cardinal Newman College and it will become just the fourth such maths institution in the country. It will be operated by the Rigby Education Trust, which has been established for the purpose.
Highways bosses at Lancashire County Council have ordered that a longstanding traffic light-controlled pedestrian crossing outside the new college is widened to accommodate the increased number of people likely to be using it. A bus stop on the outbound side of London Road will also be upgraded. Both schemes are to be funded by the trust.
However, at the city council planning meeting, Cllr Desai raised the possibility of requesting a “contribution” towards the cost of a walkway across the dual carriageway route, off which also lies the 500-pupil Eden Boys Secondary School just yards from the new maths college.
“I think we need to be thinking ahead about how we can make it easier for pedestrians to get across the main arteries [of Preston].
“We do need to think about the air quality in that area – and keeping traffic slow and [standing] for long periods of time just exacerbates the air quality issue. We need traffic to be free-flowing and move through quickly,” Cllr Desai said.
Cllr Iqbal added that the area is “that busy” that a bridge was probably needed – and asked whether the feasibility of the idea could be explored with County Hall separate to the application for the maths college.
Preston City Council’s development management team leader Phil Cousins said it would be “unreasonable” to ask the trust to fully fund the likely £500,000 cost of a footbridge given that the county council had not raised any highways-related objections to the college.
However, he said that the city council was in regular contact with County Hall over Preston’s roads and would be happy to “liaise” with the authority about the suggestion of a bridge.
“If a scheme was to come forward – for example, the design of a bridge and where it would go – then it would be more reasonable for officers and committee members to request an applicant to pay a financial contribution towards the delivery of that infrastructure,” Mr. Cousins explained.
There is an existing footbridge around half a mile away across the same route into Preston, running over Ringway from close to the bus station to St. Paul’s Square.
Planning case officer Jonathan Evans added that the conversion of the Barry House site into a college was less likely to lead to air quality issues than if it had been returned to an office function.
“Car use would certainly be expected to be higher for [an] office than for an educational facility,” he said, adding that the college could be expected to generate more journeys by sustainable transport methods such as buses, trains and bicycles.
A 24-space car park and 28-space covered bike storage area will be provided on the site. Between 15 and 30 staff are expected to be working at the facility at any one time.
Responding to permission being granted for the Lancaster University School of Mathematics, Cardinal Newman executive principal Nick Burnham said he was “delighted”.
“We are grateful for the support of Preston City Council and the planning committee. This is a very significant milestone in enabling us to open an outstanding post-16 specialist maths school for Lancashire students in September 2022.”
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