Bath Chronicle, 08:00 – 06 September 2007
Vacuum cleaner billionaire Sir James Dyson has said he will not pursue plans to build a £25m design academy anywhere in Bath. Representatives of the inventor, who started his career in the city, made the announcement yesterday afternoon after Dyson lost his preferred South Quays site to Bath Spa University earlier in the week. The land, at Lower Bristol Road, was originally going to be shared between the Dyson School of Design and Innovation and the university’s new arts campus But unresolved problems with flood risk at the site eventually led landowner Bath and North East Somerset Council to decide that there was only enough room to safely accommodate one of the two projects. Both schemes were subjected to a competitive tendering process and the university won.
A spokesperson for the James Dyson Foundation – the educational wing of Dyson’s business empire – said: “Naturally we’re disappointed by the council’s decision. “Our plans for the Dyson School of Design Innovation were at an advanced stage. “We’ve been progressing the plans for more than two years and invested more than £3m. “The Dyson school had received a great reception from local schools, parents and children in and around Bath. “But we’re still utterly committed to getting the Dyson School up and running by September 2009. “We’re currently investigating other sites and are confident that the school will go ahead in the south west – but not in Bath. “Despite losing the site we’ll endeavour nonetheless to involve Bath’s young people in the excitement and challenge of design and invention, with the ultimate aim being to get more young people pursuing careers in science and engineering.”
Political and business leaders yesterday gave a mixed reaction to the news. Cllr Chris Watt (Con, Midsomer Norton Redfield), B &NES Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Bath Spa University will deliver a greater number of people with qualifications with a better fit to the local economy. “So although in itself the news about the Dyson school is a disappointment, the news about Bath Spa University having the opportunity to further invest in the area more than makes up for that.”
Bath’s Lib Dem MP Don Foster said: “I’m very disappointed that what would have been a very exciting addition to educational provision in Bath is not going ahead. “I hope that wherever the academy is eventually sited there will still be an opportunity for students from Bath to benefit from its courses and facilities. “Nevertheless, I’m pleased that we will be having another exciting development from Bath Spa University on the site.”
Colin Skellett, chairman of business leaders’ group the Initiative for Bath and North East Somerset, said: “I know that both the regional development agency and the council have worked hard to try to resolve the issues. “But the basic problem was that it was not possible to get both the Dyson academy and Bath Spa University on to the same site. “It’s good that the site is going to be used by Bath Spa University, but it is a great shame that this prestigious national academy isn’t going to be in Bath.”