Rolle Exmouth Ltd hopes to remain involved with site

The entrance to the Owen Building. Ref exe 10-16SH 6925. Picture: Simon Horn

The entrance to the Owen Building. Ref exe 10-16SH 6925. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Community benefit society Rolle Exmouth Ltd (REL) says it was ‘disappointed’ to hear of an agreement for Exeter Deaf Academy to take over the former Rolle College site – but says it still hopes it can be involved.

The academy announced this morning (Thursday) that contracts had been exchanged with the University of Plymouth – which ceased operations on the site in 2008 - and that work was now starting on a planning application to East Devon District Council.

REL has been operating the site’s Owen Building under licence from the university since last year, and has been working to secure some or all of the site for community use.

In a statement, REL said: “We are disappointed to find that a contract has been agreed, apparently without reference to us, despite our very strong and long-standing interest and investment in the site, our ongoing negotiations with the University of Plymouth and our submission to acquire the site when it was offered for sale at the beginning of this year.

“The university has included elements of the REL proposals in its outline planning application for the site [submitted in 2015], which is currently with East Devon District Council for consideration.

“The university has required REL to undertake investments of volunteer time, shareholder capital and grant funding in the development of the university’s planning application for the site throughout the last three years; including our most recent commitment to the license and maintenance of the Owen Building.

“After six years of hard work and strong support from the community, the Owen Building is now coming back to life and is hosting start-up businesses and community use, which are two of the aspirations of REL’s community enterprise model. We are well on the way to delivering our vision so we would hope that this can still happen.

Most Read

“It would be extremely disappointing and a blow to the community of Exmouth if the town were not only to lose the revenue once associated with the college, but also the facilities that many recognise as both desirable and indeed essential in the modern world. Any such loss would be a double whammy for Exmouth and a very difficult pill to swallow.

“We would hope that there is scope for REL to work with any new owner of the site in order that we can continue forging ahead with the plans that are now well advanced for community use of the Rolle Centre.

“We would certainly be willing to work with any new owner to find a mutually acceptable solution that served the interests not only of the buyer but also the town.

“The board of REL have not yet had time to assimilate the full implications of this news, or received written notification of this decision, so we cannot comment in any detail about the implications.

“REL was formed in 2010 to secure the long-term future of part of the former Rolle College campus for business incubation, further education and community facilities

“We have 700 shareholders and have successfully secured Social Investment Business Group grant funding to help us work towards delivering the REL vision

“2016 has been an extremely positive year for REL and its supporters across Exmouth, with the Owen Building now looking and feeling like a living, breathing public space again

“We recognise that we need a team of people to help the board of REL get the accommodation fully functional and we have successfully recruited a number of volunteers with various skills.

“EDDC’s Economic Development Team has affirmed the need for a mix of business incubation, further education and community facilities – a brief the Rolle Centre matches to a tee

“The Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board has recommended that EDDC sets up a Rolle College working party with representatives of various interested parties.”