THE Homes England agency this week ended months of speculation that it was to renege on a promise to retain the Five Acres college site for community leisure.

It was feared the site would be earmarked for major housing development.

But on Monday the agency executed a surprising handbrake turn to confirm its original pledge.

A spokesman said: “Homes England has worked with local partners to find the best use for land in the Northern Quarter for several years.

“When we bought the college we agreed to lease the land back to them until their new campus was completed and it remains our intention to sell the land to Forest of Dean District Council and West Dean Parish Council once the college no longer need it.

“The playing fields will be sold to West Dean Parish Council for £1 so that they can continue to be used by the local community.”

The announcement has been welcomed by West Dean Parish Council, tempered by a caution based on past experience.

Dave Kent, clerk to the council, said: “We welcome the announcement that the playing fields will be sold to West Dean Parish Council.

“We have not yet received this information as a formal announcement to us from Homes England, but this is good news."

A spokesperson for the Forest of Dean District Council said: “We are pleased to confirm that district council officers and members have met with Homes England representatives and we are now in commercial negotiations over the future of the Five Acres site.

"We will release more information when it becomes available.”