Friday, 8 August 2008

Dyson should have government backing

Plans for a new skills academy in Bath, sponsored by the South West's leading inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson, have been called in by the planning minister, Baroness Andrews. The decision to support the new design and engineering academy, which is backed by local head teachers and business, was taken by Bath and North East Somerset council, albeit despite the objections of its planning officials and the Environment Agency. (As some have observed, this is not normally how Bath does business, so it was a welcome surprise although it is undoubtedly a controversial issue locally.) Despite efforts to involve Unesco, the building where it will be located is a disused (if old) cranemaker's works in the South Quays area which is in need of just this sort of boost (Bath is not simply an extended Jane Austen film set). As the picture shows, Dyson's design for the academy has elegantly sought to incorporate the Victorian facade to provide an unprecedented amenity for local young people. As with any riverside site, there is a flooding risk, but this will be covered in the design. The planning inquiry will delay the school yet further; the minister should set it a tight deadline. After all, if the government wants to trust local decision-making, surely this a great case in point?

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