Apology to North Devon College after funding fears 'mistake'

THE South West RDA has admitted it made a mistake and apologised after saying it was withdrawing funding for a new North Devon College campus at Seven Brethren in Barnstaple. The Regional Development Agency had said on Monday it was cutting its �1 millio

THE South West RDA has admitted it made a mistake and apologised after saying it was withdrawing funding for a new North Devon College campus at Seven Brethren in Barnstaple.

The Regional Development Agency had said on Monday it was cutting its �1 million contribution to the �125 million project, which it said "would not now happen" due to uncertainty over the college gaining grant aid from the Learning and Skills Council.

But in a statement yesterday (Tuesday) SWRDA chief executive Jane Henderson said they wished to clarify their position:

"We accept we made a mistake by implying that decisions had already been made about LSC capital funding for the college. These funding decisions have not yet been made and we apologise for suggesting they had," she said.

"We will await the outcome of the LSC's decision before confirming any future RDA funding. The LSC would be the main funder of the proposed �100m plus campus re-development programme."

The college has welcomed the announcement, with Principal David Dodd saying:

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"I welcome this swift response from SWRDA and I'm happy to accept their apology on behalf of the college.

"Our capital project is a vital development for an area of real need and the announcement that it might not be happening created a shockwave through the college and the community.

"I'd like to thank everyone who contacted the RDA and LSC to express their concern."

He added: "The positive strength of feeling surrounding our project is overwhelming and that, combined with the urgent need to improve learning and training opportunities in North Devon, is why securing capital funding from the LSC remains our number one priority."

The programme for a new campus is currently on hold following problems with the Government funded LSC's Building Colleges for the Future programme and the news in January that it had overspent its budget and would have to re-assess a number of schemes it had already agreed to fund in principle.

A damning report by investigator Sir Andrew Foster, released earlier this year, found the LSC had been awarding grants from money it did not have and made a slew of recommendations, including that future investment be "needs based" rather than "demand led.

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