HEREFORDSHIRE Council has overwhelmingly backed the principle of passing its offices and other estate on to the county’s university project.

The groundbreaking motion went through with just one abstention and no votes against at full council this morning (Friday).

Support for the motion means fundraising for the project can begin in earnest.

Council leader councillor Tony Johnson urged members to maintain their enthusiasm for the project when relevant planning applications – and inevitable objections – came in.

Proposing, councillor Andrew Atkinson said the motion represented the 50-100 year future for the county.

Councillor Anthony Powers, group leader – It’s Our County - said the university project was “the most comprehensive and inspiring vision”  to come before the council in this time.

As approved, the motion reinforces the principle of the council entering into talks with the university project over sites and estate that could be transferred - under mutually agreed terms - for campus development or made available at “peppercorn” rent.

Councillor Carl Attwood urged the council to look at lease arrangements for the sites - so that they could come back to the council if circumstances dictated -  rather than a “wave goodbye”.

Councillor Liz Harvey asked for assurances that such assets as could be handed to the project were not “double counted” in the council’s overall asset disposal programme and the money expected to be made from it.

The council heard that the planned countywide campus university  would have an “international” graduate and post-graduate reach specialising in  science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

There was, the council heard, a “gap in the market” for a university offering such subjects.

In August last year, the Hereford Times revealed plans to provide the county with a university linked to some of the world’s leading academic institutions by 2016.

Some of those institutions, in both the UK and USA are already on board offering advice on the structure, governance and administration of the new university.

Further talks are aimed at establishing grounds for more formal support.
Since the plan went public and number of  volunteers have brought strong academic and organisational backgrounds to the project.

As proposed, the university would have its campus spread across the county.  A task group is already looking into likely campus locations in Hereford, Leominster, Ledbury, and Ross-on-Wye.