Rolle College sale: latest

PLYMOUTH University has approached county bosses to negotiate the sale of Rolle College.

PLYMOUTH University has approached county bosses to negotiate the sale of Rolle College.

Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exmouth Community College, Exeter College and MP Hugo Swire met with the Learning and Skills Council last week over proposals to use the site as a vocational training centre for young people aged 14 to 19.

Plymouth University moved its teacher training facilities from Rolle College to Plymouth last year.

The Douglas Avenue site, which includes a theatre built in 2003, a library and other lecture room facilities, has been empty since the summer.

Last year the County Council entered a bid to purchase the site - funding had also been promised by Exmouth Town Council and an anonymous third party - but talks stalled because the University had shown little interest.

However falling property prices may have influenced the University's decision to restart talks.

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County Council Leader, Cllr Brian Greenslade, said: "I am delighted that Plymouth University has now considered Devon County Council's bid from last year and believe that it is a sensible starting point for further talks with us.

"We and our partners are determined to secure the future of the site and will continue to work hard towards its acquisition.

"Devon County Council is pleased to use its resources to strengthen the local economy and to provide first class training for young people."

Leader of EDDC Sara Randall Johnson said: "We will do everything we can as the planning authority to support the idea of the campus continuing to fulfil this crucial educational role.

"We know we can make a significant contribution to the success of this project and we are determined to see it through to a successful conclusion."

East Devon MP, Hugo Swire, said: "This is the news I have been pressing for. We have to ensure that this iconic site is not lost to education and that it continues to play the essential role in Exmouth's economy and future employment prospects that it has performed for so many years passed.

"Vocational training is even more important than ever during the current economic crisis.

"I congratulate the various parties on sticking to the task and I now hope we can maintain this new-found momentum so that a deal can be struck and sealed in the not too distant future."

There will be a further meeting of the group in March, but in the meantime representatives from Devon County Council and Exeter Community College will identify a lead person to progress a business case for the site.