Crushing blow for Barnstaple college plan

NORTH Devon College has been left in limbo once again after hopes of moving to a new �125 million campus in the centre of Barnstaple were shattered after learning it had lost its bid for Government cash. The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) announced on

NORTH Devon College has been left in limbo once again after hopes of moving to a new �125 million campus in the centre of Barnstaple were shattered after learning it had lost its bid for Government cash.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) announced on Friday which colleges would be receiving money for new buildings - and North Devon was not among them, nor any other part of the South West.

Both the college faculty and North Devon Council have vowed to remain upbeat and continue to fight for the new campus at Severn Brethren, which was to have been a lynchpin for plans to regenerate Barnstaple's riverfront.

A question mark had hung over the college's �90 million grant bid since the new year, when the LSC announced it had effectively overspent and would have to pick what projects would receive money from its Building Colleges for the Future programme.


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It chose 13, mostly in the north of the country, and said the unsuccessful would have to look towards the next spending review in 2011/2012.

College Principal David Dodd said the news was "a huge disappointment" after four-and-a-half years of hard work.

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"While we're pleased for those colleges who are getting something, to a college that has nothing it means nothing," he said.

"I am hopeful that changes within the LSC will draw a line under this appalling mess and ensure the Building Colleges for the Future programme actually does what it says on the tin.

"In 16 years, I doubt many colleges of our size have suffered such a lack of investment. This announcement just adds insult to injury, particularly when you consider the time, money and energy that we and our partners have invested in this project."

At the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday) the council's planning committee was meeting to discuss planning applications submitted for the new college scheme, a 590 space park and ride facility at Roundswell and the plans for a 35,981 square foot state-of-the-art college building.

On Monday a college spokesman told the Gazette the focus was now on the planning application, which would strengthen the case for pursuing a new campus.

"If permission is in place it will make life easier in terms of pursuing new funding," he said.

"We're still working on the project and are positive about it. We are looking to see how we can move it forward and put the finances in place.

"What we've had from the LSC, so far, doesn't really give a clear picture as to what the next steps are. But we're glad of the support we've received from our partners since the announcement and it was good to see the positive support from North Devon Council."

Leader of the council, Cllr Des Brailey, said the news was "a massive blow not only to the college, but also to the wider community and the local economy."

But he remained optimistic and added: "While this is a setback we would hope in the future that when things change money will become available and it can go ahead.

"Naturally we need to look at the town centre development, but the college is going ahead with its application and since this is a 20-year-vision for the area, I don't see any major change is necessary at this time."

And Mr Dodd said it was not the end of the road by any means: "Buildings are important but it's what goes on inside that really matters and North Devon College's students and staff make us an outstanding success. Not many colleges can say that, new buildings or not.

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