IT is crunch time for the town-driven Rolle Centre - and its future depends on £500,000 being raised over the next six weeks.

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Roger Staker, managing director of Rolle Exmouth Ltd (REL), said that share take-up, earmarked for the end of this month, would determine if the former college campus had a future as a £3.5million business, education and community hub.

He made the comments at a public meeting at Exmouth Pavilion, which was packed by hundreds of people who pledged their support to the community venture.

The first share issue is the culmination of two years of hard, backroom negotiations between not-for-profit company REL, set up by residents, and site owners Plymouth University in a bid to retain the ‘best half’ of the 13,000sqm site for the community.

It follows Rolle College’s closure in 2008 after 70 years.

Mr Staker said he hoped that the first share issue would be at the end of February, over a limited four to six-week period.

Each share will cost £5, with a minimum investment of £100 and a maximum investment of £20,000.

The £500,000 will pay for the recommissioning of the buildings on the 7,000sqm site.

Some buildings date from the 1960s and work is needed on the plumbing, heating and electrics, creating jobs for local tradespeople over two years.

The first buildings, however, could be open for use by the autumn.

Mr Staker said: “To be prudent and transparent, the business plan has been built on a foundation that does not include taxpayer subsidy.

“We want to make sure the Rolle Centre can stand and develop on its own.

“This project is now at a point of simple truth; if we raise enough money as a result of the share issue, we can begin to execute the business plan and get the Rolle Centre up and running.

“If the share issue does not raise enough money, the Rolle Centre will be unable to progress.”

REL will pay £50,000 in rent each year up to 2015, totalling £150,000, before buying the site for £2.85million.

REL chairman Roy Pryke said: “We are delighted that the pavilion was packed with residents who are more determined than ever to see this project succeed and have pledged their support.”

Go to: www.rollecentre.org

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