Plymouth University's £300,000 TV 'must not show video'

Plymouth University
Image caption Plymouth University's screen cost £206,000 plus £89,600 to install

A university spent nearly £300,000 on a giant video screen despite being told it could not broadcast video.

Plymouth University bought the screen for £206,000, and agreed installation costs of £89,600 in August.

Two years earlier, planners granted permission for the project providing only still pictures were used, as the site is visible from two major roads and could distract drivers.

A university spokesman said the screen will show "time-lapsed information".

'Shocking' spending

The screen, which measures 9m (30ft) by 5m (16ft), was approved by the office of the vice chancellor, which was being led at the time by acting chief executive, Prof David Coslett.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the spending was "shocking".

Philippa Davey, UCU regional official, said: "Quite frankly we are shocked that you would spend that amount of money for something that's just going to be showing still images, particularly when you knew that and you had an opportunity to be able to move it."

Image caption David Coslett was acting chief executive in August, when the costs were signed off

Planning documents reveal that in November 2012, the university "agreed to conditions being imposed on their permission to prevent the display of moving images" and stated "still images will now be displayed which fade in and out".

A university spokesman said: "The university was fully aware of the planning terms from the outset, indeed planning permissions were granted and understood well before the project was finally approved and the screen ordered."

It is the latest in a series of spending rows at the university.

In September it emerged that nearly £100,000 was spent on seven chairs to be used for graduation ceremonies, then in October it was revealed that Prof Wendy Purcell, the vice chancellor who is currently suspended while complaints about her conduct are investigated, had spent £15,000 on first class rail fares over three years.

Last month academic staff at Plymouth University backed a vote of no confidence in Prof Purcell.

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