THE University of Chester is set to vacate Padgate Campus and move to Warrington town centre – with the former teacher training site likely to be sold for future housing development.
Confirming plans to move off the Padgate Campus site, The University of Chester says the move will increase the amount of Higher Education in Warrington substantially, with a more visible and accessible town centre presence bringing learning right into the heart of the community.
Students and staff were involved in an extensive review last year, which identified the need to reconsider the current location on Crab Lane, Fearnhead, in favour of a site which is more fit for purpose for current and future demand.
The proposals were announced to staff yesterday, raising various concerns including job security, whether the proposed new premises will be be suitable for teaching and the future of the Crab Lane site.
The University is currently in the process of negotiating a lease on a property in the regenerated area of Time Square. This prime position, benefitting from high footfall, will enable more people to engage directly with the University through an information and learning hub. The flexible space will be used for a variety of activities and events to educate and innovate.
The central location will allow students and staff easy access to public transport and leisure and retail facilities, with greater opportunities for spending the ‘student pound’ and contributing more towards the town centre economy.
A second building near Time Square, believed to be the former Tax offices near the old Mr Smth’s site, will accommodate most of the spaces for the University’s core teaching, including specialist facilities. The footprint may ultimately extend beyond this.
Students and staff have been updated about the “exciting” developments with more information set to be released as soon as the details of the new premises have been confirmed.
The University will transfer all its provision to the town centre by September 2022 and it is considering options for its current site, in close consultation with Warrington Borough Council.
Warrington-Worldwide understands this is likely to be a housing development. The University say care will be taken to preserve the campus’s history, in discussions with alumni.
Warrington Wolves, whose training facilities are currently on campus, have been kept appraised and are understood to be already involved in negotiations to move to a new venue.
Professor Eunice Simmons, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “Warrington is a dynamic and forward-thinking town and our higher profile will facilitate tapping into potential new markets, including higher-level vocational skills alongside traditional degrees.
“Warrington is also a town with a strong sense of social responsibility, which aligns perfectly with the University’s strategic vision to provide our ‘Citizen Students’ with a ‘premium, personalised and purposeful’ experience.
“For example, many members of the public in Warrington may already have been taught, treated or protected by our local Education, Health and Social Care or Policing graduates without realising it! We look forward to working more closely with employers, schools and partner colleges to support a joined-up approach to local and regional employment needs.
“Talking to our students and staff and other stakeholders, we have been able to evaluate our current provision and understand fully how best to realise our ambition to broaden the reach and accessibility of the University in Warrington.
“The move also enables the University to be embedded into the Warrington economy, responding to both local need and demand whilst focussing on areas of growth and providing strategic support for the post-COVID economic and cultural recovery.”
The university campus was used as a camp for Canadian servicemen during the Second World War. In 1946, it became a teacher training college and in the late 1960s was re-named to Padgate College of Education.
In honour of the historical usage, part of the site was named Canada Hall.
The campus is home to more than 300 students offering a variety of degree courses including journalism and sport-related subjects. There are 8 halls of residence.