Rolle debate goes on

PUBLISHED: 16:35 17 October 2009 | UPDATED: 12:06 10 June 2010

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to persuade county bosses to rethink their decision not to buy Rolle campus for use as a post-16 college were left frustrated last week, when the debate was deferred, writes David Beasley.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to persuade county bosses to rethink their decision not to buy Rolle campus for use as a post-16 college were left frustrated last week, when the debate was deferred, writes David Beasley.

Three weeks ago the Tory-run council reneged on a verbal pledge to buy the Douglas Avenue site.

The council's previous Liberal Democrat administration had been working with Exmouth Community College and Exeter College towards purchasing the site.

On Thursday, a cross-party delegation of councillors, community college governors, community organisations and members of the public at County Hall's scrutiny committee made an orchestrated effort to get the decision overturned.

But, frustratingly, after nearly three hours of debate, the only thing that they decided on was to have another debate - to enable council leader John Hart and portfolio holder for education, Christine Channon, to attend.

Cabinet member for finance, John Clatworthy, defended the decision and said: "I am surprised that the previous administration did not put money aside if they were really that supportive..."

"There is no bottomless pit of money... this administration will not take on the role of property developer and buy buildings that might not be used..."

But that didn't wash with college governor Ken Turner: "We have a cohort of young people aged 16 to 25 not knowing where they are going to be in education or employment or training.

"That is what Rolle was trying to address. The problem remains... you have badly let them down, you have betrayed them."

EDDC executive member and college governor Jill Elson said: "The loss of £5m to the town's economy has been devastating.

"(Owners) Plymouth University are selling each site individually, to make as much money as they can.

"We need to have a plan... young people need to know where they are going to go."

Roy Pryke, of Exmouth Community Association, even suggested that the town should be given 'a choice'; the Strand makeover or Rolle: "An improved Strand would be great, but will not produce jobs immediately."

Town Clerk John Wokersien criticised the lack of evidence produced before the decision was made: "The process is flawed, the way the decision was reached... the town is being asset stripped (the site was given to Exmouth by Lord Rolle for educational use).

"We feel a deep sense of betrayal... for goodness sake, have the courage to make a decision."

At the next scrutiny committee, October 30, if the council upholds the original decision it could be debated, possibly, by the full council, in December.

If rejected, the Cabinet could have to look at new evidence and think again.

However the clock is ticking - Rolle College, which has been split into 13 sites for sale, could already be sold by then.


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