THE call by Mr Keith Smith, pro-chancellor of the International University of the Caribbean (IUC), for Mandeville to be officially recognised as a university/college town is indeed interesting and worthy of consideration.
Mr Smith, the immediate past president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce was reported in yesterday's edition of the Observer Central, as telling the Rotary Club of Mandeville audience that there is a direct impact on the economic and social life of urban centres designated as university towns.
"Many university/college towns have become centres of technological research and innovative start-ups," Mr Smith said last week in his address, which focused more on the commercial and educational services, value that such designation would bring to Mandeville, the Manchester capital.
He is, of course, correct. But there is another great benefit to such designation which, we are sure, the people of Mandeville would welcome — the inevitable increase in property value.
By their very nature, university or college towns are centres of commerce where property attracts premium prices.
Evidence of that was publicised last year in a study by Lloyds TSB showing that property prices in new university towns in the United Kingdom grew by an average of 70 per cent in the last decade.
According to a report in Property Wire, a global property news service, the study showed that these towns, where universities have been established since 1960, have seen property prices rise from £91,612 to £155,953.
"Average house price growth in the more traditional, older university towns rose by a more modest 64 per cent," the report said.
"But both new and old university towns recorded higher average price increases than the 62 per cent increase across the UK as a whole. More than two-thirds of all university towns recorded house price increases in excess of the UK average," the Property Wire report said.
The report listed seven towns where house prices have more than doubled: Bangor in Wales recorded an increase of 129 per cent; Carlisle, 110 per cent; Sunderland, 108 per cent; Dundee, 107 per cent; Pontypridd, 106 per cent; Bradford, 105 per cent; and Plymouth up 102 per cent.
Added the report: "The most expensive new university town, and also the most expensive of all university towns, is Winchester with an average house price of £364,667, followed by Kingston upon Thames at £360,331 and Buckingham at £330,795. The least expensive are Salford at £106,685, Paisley at £106,967 and Bradford at £108,282."
Mandeville, as Mr Smith pointed out, is perfectly suited for this kind of development, given the existence of the support services — which is growing with the entry of new businesses, such as MegaMart — that transform towns into major urban centres.
The increased property values will likely contribute to an improvement in the quality of life in that town and its neighbouring communities as there would be no avoiding the spillover effect of new employment.
What the authorities need to do, though, is go beyond just designating Mandeville a university town. They need to plan carefully the town's expansion and implement the changes in a systemic way in order to avoid developmental imbalances.0