Rolle plan dropped

FOUR years of campaigning, back-room negotiations and Prime Ministerial lobbying to re-open Rolle campus as a post-16 college amounted to nothing this week after county chiefs abandoned their purchase of the site.

FOUR years of campaigning, back-room negotiations and Prime Ministerial lobbying to re-open Rolle campus as a post-16 college amounted to nothing this week after county chiefs abandoned their purchase of the site.

On Tuesday, Devon County Council's executive voted 'not to pursue' purchasing the Douglas Avenue site, closed by owners Plymouth University last summer after 61 years.

Among the reasons was there was 'no longer' an educational need following Exeter College's partnership with Bicton College and the squeeze in local government finances.

County solicitor Roger Gash also intimated that the new Conservative administration may have had something to do with the decision.


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Turning to leader John Hart, he said it was 'widely known' that Cllr Hart was 'not exactly enamoured' with the project.

He added: "... If there isn't an education requirement, it is much more difficult to justify. We could spend anything from �4-5 million."

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However, for Exmouth, its councillors, residents, community groups and a consortium of community college governors who pursued the purchase as high as Downing Street, the reasons rang hollow.

As recently as April, MP Hugo Swire and the consortium broke out the bubbly after what appeared to be a financial commitment from the county council.

The campus, it was a thought, would sell for a minimum of �3 million, prompting Exmouth Town Council to commit 10 per cent of its budget, with county council putting �2 million on the table - the Learning and Skills Council was to foot the rest of the bill.

Since then, however, LSC funding was pulled, the Lib Dem administration fell to the Conservatives and one of the partners, Exeter College, began to work more closely with Bicton College.

Mr Gash also added the balance had 'now tilted' and, if the site was to be acquired, 'the lion's share of the accommodation ...would need to be utilised by the...community,' and one of the potential tenants, the library service, had 'never favoured' the site.

Cllr Hart said: "The squeeze experienced (in council finances) when Margaret Thatcher was in power was less than a quarter of what is expected."

He called the scheme a 'white elephant' and added: "I recommend we do not proceed further."

He added: "We are not forgetting Exmouth... we are building a new children's centre at Marpool School and there is The Strand (redevelopment)."

Exmouth Cllr Eileen Wragg said: "The college was given to Exmouth by Lord Clinton.

"Assurances were given... (by the late former University Vice Chancellor Roland Levinsky) that it would not be sold to the highest bidder and be retained for use by the community.

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