The University of Chester is remaining tight-lipped over whether informal talks have taken place with West Cheshire College over the possibility of buying its state-of-the-art Handbridge site after it was recently announced the four-year-old base will close.
West Cheshire College spent £65m on brand new buildings in Ellesmere Port and Handbridge but borrowed too much money on the deal. The Eaton Road base only opened in 2011 after years spent trying to deliver a new Chester campus including a failed attempt on land next to Northgate Village.
Speculation has been rife the university wants the Handbridge site after securing planning permission for a faculty at the former Lloyds Banking Group base in nearby Queen’s Park in addition to its Riverside campus in the former County Hall building.
For the moment, the university, whose Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr Chris Haslam is a governor at West Cheshire College, is playing its cards close to its chest .
A spokesman for the University of Chester said: “There is no change in our position. We are not in negotiation over the West Cheshire College site.”
Last November The Chronicle asked the university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler about what were then rumours concerning the FE college’s uncertain future. But he refused to reveal any possible interest in the site.
He said: “The number of approaches I get trying to sell me houses in Garden Lane, every building that comes on the market is linked to the university.
“One of the things we have to think about is what kind of quality of student experience would there be.
“I’ve been offered buildings out on the business park, repeatedly, I’ve been offered large hotels. I’ve been offered three hotels in the last year and we said ‘no’ because it doesn’t work out. There’s an awful lot of speculation goes on.”