Community-led vision for Rolle College revealed

Drawing of the Rolle Exmouth Limited concept plan for the former Rolle College site.

Drawing of the Rolle Exmouth Limited concept plan for the former Rolle College site. - Credit: Archant

This is how a Rolle College site saved for the people of Exmouth could look.

Rolle Exmouth Limited (REL) says its newly-unveiled proposal is a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to boost the town for the next 20 years and more, and help thousands of young people and organisations.

To make the project viable, some homes would be built, but the concept plans show the site’s existing Owen Building – for which REL was granted a licence earlier this year - flanked by two new large buildings, to meet education, business, and community needs.

Plymouth University, which owns the site, is currently applying for planning permission to build up to 85 homes there, and is marketing it for sale.

The ambition of REL is to build a consortium to purchase all or part of the site.


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Reacting to the announcement, Exmouth mayor Maddy Chapman said: “Exmouth Town Council has taken a close and active interest in the Rolle project. We appreciate the work that Plymouth University and REL have done and the prospect of an outcome in the near future, which meets their agreed objectives in a mutually satisfactory way.”

Exmouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce chairman Ian MacQueen said: “The chamber has backed REL strongly for the past five years to provide what the town can gain by Rolle renewing its contribution to the cultural, educational and economic life of Exmouth and the surrounding area.

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“I hope REL can secure a substantial part, perhaps even the whole site, for the community and make a special contribution to the quality of life here.”

Chairman of REL Deborah Hallett said: “Exmouth has suffered since the campus closed but we now have an incredible opportunity to build a consortium, and work with Plymouth University and interested developers to create a viable asset and special place that would be key to the success and vitality of the area for decades to come.”

There will be an immediate fundraising campaign to raise funds to refurbish and develop the Owen Building and maintain REL’s momentum in building a consortium, then a new national share campaign in the spring, to fund the continued development of the Owen Building and provide a down payment to secure some or all of the site.

The Owen Building is said to need ‘extensive’ maintenance and repair, having stood empty since Rolle College closed in 2008.

Deputy chairman of REL Roy Pryke said: “As a community organisation looking to develop a strong consortium, we believe the purchase and running of the site – with a mix of housing, education, business and community uses – is financially viable and in the best interests of Exmouth and East Devon.

“Because we are a community benefit society, REL can secure grant funding and low interest rate social investment, whilst not having to generate the profit margins that developers would seek. And most importantly, REL belongs to and is owned by the community of Exmouth.

“Yes the plan is ambitious. Yes it is community-led so we must encourage more people to get involved. And yes it can be done.

“We are now focusing on building a consortium to buy the site from Plymouth University whilst starting to fundraise to begin the refurbishment of the Owen Building.

“We then intend to run an 18-month series of festivals, workshops and events to explore local potential opportunities and needs. Themes could include arts, theatre, enterprise, business, digital and education.

“This will ensure we do not make any hasty decisions when developing the rest of the site. The REL board does not hold all the answers – this must be a community and demand-led initiative.”

For more information on REL, visit www.rollecentre.org, or email admin@rollecentre.org.

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