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Cutbacks raise Paston College doubts

PUBLISHED: 12:21 27 January 2009 | UPDATED: 09:22 13 July 2010

A major rebuild project at north Norfolk's main sixth form college is waiting to see if it is affected by a national review of spending plans.

Paston College is poised to carry out a £23m relocation at North Walsham, having won planning permission - despite some local opposition and concerns - just weeks ago.

A major rebuild project at north Norfolk's main sixth form college is waiting to see if it is affected by a national review of spending plans.

Paston College is poised to carry out a £23m relocation at North Walsham, having won planning permission - despite some local opposition and concerns - just weeks ago.

But the government's Learning and Skills Council, which provides the pot of money for such schemes, has deferred some decisions and is currently talking to colleges with projects in the pipeline - because of demand on funds and the effect of the property slump on some schemes.

Senior staff from Paston College are meeting with LSC officials tomorrow and Monday to find out if the north Norfolk scheme will be affected.

Vice-principal Tim Ellen said: “There is an element of uncertainty, with decisions being frozen until March.

“However, we were not expecting to hear a decision on our funding until March or April and are still hopeful of getting an answer for spring or early summer”

Mr Ellen said they hoped to learn “the project won't be further delayed “following revisions required to plans passed in December.

He said: “The LSC has not run out of money as some people have said. The capital pot is very substantial. But they want to prioritise projects that can be built sooner rather than later.”

Paston was better-placed than some other colleges which had large amounts of property to sell as part of their funding package. Only about 5pc of Paston's plans relied on land sale of the Lawns site which it owned.

LSC chief executive Mark Haysom assured: “There is no freeze on the programme.”

More than 250 projects costing £2.3billion were being funded, and £110 million had been bought forward from future budgets to accelerate spending.

Some schemes due for a decision in December had been postponed until March. The increased demand, coupled with “early signs that the ability of colleges to raise their own funds for proposed projects is being affected by the downturn” meant the LSC was working with colleges “to look at the individual current positions before making further funding decisions.”

The Paston scheme involves building a modern 1,000-student college on a site off Station Road, next to the Victory pool and fitness centre, to replace the current historic but difficult-to-run split campus on the Lawns and Griffons sites in the town centre.

It has not received universal support, with some people concerned about the impact on local roads, the impact on the town of the two vacated sites, severing of 400-year-old links with the former Paston School site where former pupils included Lord Nelson.


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