Monday, April 13, 2009

Ham Actor

The Journal article about the student ghetto planned for the former paint factory site (see also below) quotes Mr Brian Ham, director of the Metnor Property Group, who said: “We are aware student developments are a sensitive issue. But both the universities are in competition for students and if Newcastle isn’t able to offer good quality student facilities they will go elsewhere".

Mr Ham is not an educator, I presume. I rather believe Mr Ham is the director of a company wishing to diversify away from a slackening demand for factory and wholesale warehouse construction into the rapidly expanding and lucrative student warehousing market. His views about the two city Universities as quoted are interesting and contradictory.

According to what I read in The Journal I learn from Mr Ham that the two universities are in competition for students who are seeking better than average accommodation. Providing better accommodation will resolve this competitive difference.

How comes? Surely, students are firstly attracted to courses in disciplines which they wish to study? En suite bathrooms might just swing it, but surely this must be something rather less tangental to other factors? An opportunity to study law at a leading British university might one feels weigh more heavily than considerations of which ones can provide fitted carpets and Wi-Fi equipped 'rooming'.

Unless of course this is nothing whatsoever to do with academic excellence but a chance to suck yet more cash out of the student loan into the coffers of one of these 'competing' universities.

Despite Mr Ham's company profitting by this scheme, he remains "sensitive" to the feelings of the objectors – one hundred per cent of both Liberal Democrats and local Labour party officials and a sizeable number of private objectors. Mr Ham's sensitivity makes all the difference. It would make more of a difference if Mr Ham were to move into the area he is so committed to turn into an above average student ghetto and experience for himself the price others will pay for the revenue stream his company is creating for itself and the University of Northumbria.

Meanwhile back at Low IQ Central ...

Councillor Gareth Kane said: “We would have preferred family accommodation there to re-balance the community ... (Which is why the Council never produced any such scheme and the site was twice ear marked for offices – of which several large, modern and very empty examples dot the city already) .. but legally we knew we were in a difficult position to argue and the committee couldn’t turn down the proposal.”

Why ever not? Proposals are turned down all the time. What hold has Metnor and client the University of Northumbria have over the Council? And why not argue any way? You do have an argument, don't you?


Undiscussed by The Journal but of potentially greater importance to the future of the open space, were the examples of 'doing up' the "threatening" City Stadium site presented by Metnor – who do not own this ground. These include proposals which suggest this piece of open space will effectively come under the control of whomever controls the new student accommodation development – Metnor or its client, the University of Northumbria. This does "threaten" to turn this precious piece of inner city landscape into a private pitch for students to play on and the rest of us to skirt around. Remarks made by Metnor's PR representatives at the public presentation I attended made this intention – to control the open space – clear. To them obvously, it was done deal.

Older posts which are relevent to this subject include (oldest first):

The Letter

An Exchange of Views


But will it ever happen?

It is all becoming clearer now

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