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Paston College move 'still on the cards'

PUBLISHED: 17:35 29 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:47 13 July 2010

Bosses at Paston College have said a multi-million pound relocation to a new site with improved facilities is still very much on the cards, despite confirmation the necessary government funding is not available at this stage.

Bosses at Paston College have said a multi-million pound relocation to a new site with improved facilities is still very much on the cards, despite confirmation the necessary government funding is not available at this stage.

The North Walsham college was just one of scores of institutions around East Anglia to find out last week that they would be forced to delay or scale down their building schemes.

College principals accused the government of “neglecting” the region and ignoring its pockets of deprivation and severe skills shortage as it received nothing in the latest round of handouts.

The region's further education institutions had been encouraged by ministers to work up plans to rebuild their campuses to make them ready to equip young people with 21st century skills.

Earlier this year it was announced the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which oversees the projects, had run out of money to fund billions of pounds of building schemes across England.

The Paston project, which would see a shift from the college's twin town centre sites to a greenfield complex next to the Victory pool, was granted planning permission six months ago despite concerns about the impact of extra traffic and traders fearing losses as students spent their money away from the town centre.

Tim Ellen, vice principal at the college, said the original target date of moving to the new £25m Station Road site by September 2011 was now “scaled right back”.

But he added: “We think we have a very good case for relocation and that it will happen in the future, we are confident about the future of this college.

“This isn't surprising news because of the budget mismanagement by the LSC, but it is of course very frustrating because so much work has gone into the project and the need is very great.

“We are on the crest of a wave here at Paston in many ways, with a very good recent Ofsted and a growing college - but we need new buildings.”

The capital cost of the Paston relocation was comparatively small when put against the many £100m-plus projects, said Mr Ellen, which could mean there would be other avenues for funding in the future.

Mr Ellen said that for the wider community of Norfolk, last week's announcement was a deeply unfortunate one because the county completely missed out on the agreed funding.

“There's nothing there for Norfolk or, from what I can see, the eastern region, which is disappointing.”

Last week's announcement by the LSC revealed there would be funding for just 13 scaled-down schemes - none in Norfolk, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire.

It means major projects in King's Lynn, at City College Norwich and in Bircham Newton, Gorleston and Yarmouth will have to get in the queue for cash after the 2011/12 government spending review.

The 13 projects were chosen from more than 180 submitted to the LSC as part of the latest round of the further education capital programme.


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