Row over Rolle College speech

The Owen Building at Rolle College

The Owen Building at Rolle College - Credit: Archant

A speech justifying Plymouth University’s approach to the Rolle College site has been branded ‘grotesque’.

In comments supported by the East Devon Labour Party, its agent, Ray Davison, reported on having attended the university’s recent consultation on redevelopment plans, and heard the speech by its interim vice-chancellor Professor David Coslett.

In response, Professor Coslett said Mr Davison was ‘very badly mistaken’ in his interpretation of his remarks.

Mr Davison, who attended the consultation as a Rolle shareholder, Labour representative and Exmouth Community College governor, told a Labour Party meeting of his ‘anger and dismay’ at Professor Coslett’s speech.

Mr Davison said: “Choosing to describe the removal of Rolle from Exmouth as a small amount of pain for us but a pain fully compensated by the consolidation of a centralised Plymouth University of great benefit to the South West, the country and the world, is a grotesque piece of misrepresentation and distortion. This will anger and offend almost everybody in Exmouth.

“There is no disguising the fact that Exmouth has lost an enormous asset and that Plymouth University has behaved like a profiteering, asset-stripping corporation with no real responsible concern for our town.

“What a gift they had from Devon and what a pittance they want to give us in return. Well done, Plymouth.

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“What Plymouth should be doing is giving Exmouth the first option to purchase the site and thus give our community a legacy of substance to compensate our substantial loss.”

In response, Professor Coslett said: “I’m afraid Mr Davison is very badly mistaken about the remarks I made.

“My predecessor, vice-chancellor Roland Levinsky, recommended relocating provision in Exeter and Exmouth in order to consolidate the university’s activity in Plymouth.

“In my speech, I acknowledged the relocation caused difficulty and pain. I have reason to remember those difficulties vividly, as at the time I was working for the university in both those locations.

“I said that this type of consolidation, in both private and public sectors, was sometimes a feature of an organisation’s development.

“At no point did I minimise or downplay those difficulties for individuals or communities in Exeter, Exmouth (and indeed Newton Abbot).

“However, Mr Davison has chosen to interpret my remarks differently, as is his right.

“Despite his stance, the university will continue to work constructively with all those who seek a positive outcome from the current situation.”

Plymouth University consulted on two proposals last month, both of which would see most of the Rolle College site used for housing.

In one proposal, just the Owen Building would be allocated for the community, while in the second proposal an extra building would also be assigned for community or ‘commercial’ use.