SAJID Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has been asked to step in and sort out the ‘shambles’ surrounding plans for a new college campus in Cinderford.
Frustrated by years of delays, West Dean Parish Council, which hopes to take over the current college site at Berry Hill, has written to Mr Javid asking him to intervene.
The college, which is the keystone of the multi million pound redevelopment of Cinderford’s Northern Quarter, has been waiting for an announcement on funding for the project from the Government for several months.
But persistent delays are causing mounting pressure on Gloucestershire College and its stakeholders to ‘come clean’ over whether the proposed new campus on Cinderford’s Northern Quarter is ever going to happen.
West Dean Parish Council wants to redevelop the Berry Hill Campus as a community leisure facility, but fears that the fabric of the building is deteriorating so rapidly that further delays could kill of their proposals.
Dave Kent, Clerk to West Dean Parish Council said: “This has gone beyond a joke. We have seen tens of millions of pounds spent over the last 12 years with absolutely nothing to show for it.
“It’s an utter fiasco.”
In his letter to the Secretary of State he writes: “There are two actions which could immediately resolve this sad story.
“The first is for an immediate grant be made to Gloucestershire College to enable it to relocate to Cinderford.
“The second is to allow ownership of the land currently occupied by the College to be transferred to West Dean Parish Council and Gloucestershire County Council.”
And on Thursday this week, Forest of Dean District Council is to be asked for a full update on the funding delays.
Councillor Richard Leppington is to ask the council’s cabinet meeting tomorrow (February 16) on where exactly the development stands.
Cllr Leppington said: “We were told that the funding would be announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement in November,” he said. But that didn’t happen.
“Then we were told to expect a statement from the government just before Christmas, But that was cancelled at the last minute.
“Since the we have been told to expect an announcement any day now. But it still hasn’t happened.
“I think we should be told whether or not this is ever going to happen and if not what is Plan B.”
However, both the college authorities and major stakeholder Gloucestershire First Local Enterprise Partnership remain upbeat and have consistently said they are confident a funding statement will be forthcoming from the Government very soon.
Peter White College Vice Principal said: “We and the board of governors of the college are fully committed to building a new campus in Cinderford. There is no question about that.
“We are still, having regular talks with all our stakeholders and are confident of a positive outcome.”
Cllr Patrick Molyneux, Leader of the Forest of Dean District Council and cabinet member for regeneration and planning said: “We are all keenly awaiting the Government’s next round of Growth Deal announcements.
“Other LEP’s around the Country have already had their Growth Deals approved and we remain optimistic that Gloucestershire LEP will be the next in the queue.
“The Cinderford Northern Quarter project has always been about education-led regeneration.
“All partners including the district council, Gloucestershire County Council, Homes and Communities Agency and Gloucestershire LEP will continue to work together to support the delivery of this project.”
If all goes to plan the college would move from Five Acres to the Northern Quarter and the original site would be used to create a leisure hub for the whole Forest.
The 10-year development programme will eventually provide a hotel, 195 homes and up to 18,800sqm of employment space at the Northern Quarter.
The Forest of Dean District Council has already completed the necessary legal work to hand the land to the college once it gets confirmation that the move will go ahead.