Rolle purchase abandoned

FOUR years of campaigning, back-room negotiations and Prime Ministerial lobbying to reopen Rolle campus as a post-16 college came 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 reopen Rolle campus as a post-16 college came 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 it.


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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.

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"We could spend anything from �4-5 million."

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 their budget with county 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 that the balance had 'now tilted' and if the site was to be acquired: "The lions 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."

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.

"Recently I was speaking to the Principal of the Community College. There is currently about 530 sixth form students and that is expected to rise to 800.

"The town feels that it has been misled. We feel we have had the rug pulled out from under our feet."

Exmouth's Cllr Brenda Taylor added: "Students are sitting on boxes. Where are we going to put them?

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