North Norfolk college move under threat

The future of north Norfolk's Paston sixth form college could be threatened if local opposition scuppers a planned £23m move to a new site.Concerned college bosses fear they could lose the government funds which would switch the campus from its historic by split town centre site to a new complex on the outskirts, enabling it to boost student numbers from 680 to 1,000.

THE future of north Norfolk's Paston sixth form college could be threatened if local opposition scuppers a planned £23m move to a new site.

Concerned college bosses fear they could lose the government funds which would switch the campus from its historic town centre split site to a new complex on the outskirts, enabling it to boost student numbers from 680 to 1,000.

It would leave the seat of learning, which has links to Lord Nelson, struggling to compete with other colleges around the county undergoing modernisation programmes.

Principal Peter Mayne said: "Make no mistake, Paston is under threat. Our current buildings, although many are beautiful, simply cannot deliver a modern, high-achieving education. We have to move.


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"And unless the right decisions are made quickly, we will lose out on the government-funded £23m grant."

His comments come after some local residents, and the town council, raised concerns over parking, privacy, traffic and the impact on the town centre of having the college move out.

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Mr Mayne has moved to calm residents' fears, but is clear that the college needs to move out to move on.

"We have no choice in the matter - we need new educational buildings, or the college will decline. The question is simple: does North Walsham want Paston to survive?" he added.

"The decision to leave the old buildings was a very, very difficult one," said Mr Mayne. "But the old buildings simply cannot deliver the kind of education our young people need. If we stay the college will suffer, no question."

A recent Ofsted inspection said the split site put constraints on the college, despite it being in the top 10pc of high achieving sixth form colleges in the country.

Mr Mayne said the £23m grant was a huge opportunity not only for Paston but also for North Walsham and north Norfolk.

"It will give our community the college our future students deserve. It will also be the biggest investment in North Walsham since the coming of the railway in the nineteenth century, bringing jobs and helping revitalise our economy during the recession.

"But the grant is only available if we move for educational new builds, such as Station Road. It's not available for rebuilding or refurbish-ment. If we're not careful, it will be lost."

Both the existing sites had exciting potential for redevelopment - the Griffons site, where Nelson studied, could be turned into a residential area or community project, while preserving its overall character. The Lawns could be residential, leisure and retail.

The college had looked at a range of options for expansion but had ruled out the existing sites as too small. It was also putting together a document answering the fears of residents.

People living near the planned new Station Road site and worried about privacy would be half a football pitch away.

"Similar issues were raised in connection with the nearby Victory Pool and they proved groundless," he added.

The college was working with highways officials over traffic concerns, and while 92pc of students did not use a car, was also planning to promote even more bus and train use, while 140 spaces should be enough to cope with parking.

Mr Mayne said a larger college would also bring more jobs and more students.

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