Rolle project wins Whitehall backing

PUBLISHED: 09:43 09 December 2014 | UPDATED: 09:43 09 December 2014

The Owen Building at Rolle College

The Owen Building at Rolle College

Archant

Finally, after a six-year struggle, the transformation of Rolle College into a community hub could be realised after Whitehall chiefs pledged £99,000

The cash not only means that a planning application could be filed as soon as next spring, but the scheme may be tacked on to Exmouth’s wider regeneration plans.

And from the new year, the public will get to have their say on the proposals.

Since Rolle College’s closure in 2008, a succession of minsters have pledged - and failed - to help.

And while success now is by no means certain, the news of a government cash boost gives Rolle Exmouth Limited (REL) renewed hope that it could become a reality.

For year’s, REL has fought tooth-and-nail to keep the site for Exmouth – it was gifted to the town by Lord Rolle prior to its opening as a teacher training college in 1949.

REL’s aim has always been to transform the Plymouth University-owned Douglas Avenue site into an education, small business, and community hub.

At one point a share-sale did not raise as much cash as expected and when the true condition of the ageing buildings was revealed, costs spiralled.

Now the project has turned a corner; cash, from a community fund managed by the Department of Communities and Local Government will be used to hire architects, marketing experts and launch the public consultation, which will run from January to April.

REL chairman Deborah Hallett said: “We are now evaluating the challenges and opportunities - it will complement the wider Exmouth regeneration. The project will require significant further funding; work is ongoing to identify sources of funding and to develop a long-term business plan.”

Brian Webber, resident and REL shareholder, called the latest developments ‘encouraging’.

East Devon MP Hugo Swire said: “In April, I lobbied my ministerial colleague Eric Pickles, urging him to award REL with this significant grant and so I am naturally delighted.”

Sarah Jones, Plymouth University’s finance director, said: “There is much to be done as we work together to help realise these ambitions.”

Councillor Andrew Moulding, the district council’s head of the Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board, said: “I look forward to seeing some tangible evidence of their hard work, hopefully before the end of 2015.”

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