Stakeholders feeling 'positive' after meeting about CITB's exit from west Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 17:12 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 20:41 09 February 2018
© Stephen Shepherd
West Norfolk MPs have expressed positivity after the managers of a major employer agreed to hold further discussions about extending its future in the area.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) held a meeting with key stakeholders on Friday including the borough and county councils and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to discuss the preservation of jobs at the National Construction College at Bircham Newton, from which the organisation is proposing to move its headquarters to Peterborough.
Sir Henry Bellingham and Elizabeth Truss, the MPs for West and South West Norfolk, argued the CITB should not leave the site for another two years to give continuity while plans are made for the future of the site.
Following their submission, representatives from the CITB agreed to put the proposal to company directors at a board meeting in the coming weeks.
Sarah Beale, chief executive of CITB, said: “There were lots of issues on the table and we are committed to working together with taskforce partners to achieve workable solutions for West Norfolk and the people who live and work there.
“Not only is CITB absolutely committed to securing opportunities for the future of the site and the retention of jobs in Norfolk – we can now rely on the expert advice and input of each and every key local stakeholder, throughout the reform process.”
Sir Henry said he was “very encouraged” by the outcome in what he felt had been a “constructive” meeting.
“Myself and Liz Truss had a very strong case for a compromise on the headquarters. What we made very clear was our view that for the headquarters there to not be moved for a minimum of two years, so the key management stay at Bircham Newton to oversee the masterplan,” he said.
Cllr Brian Long, Leader of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, said: “It was a positive and extremely constructive meeting, which explored a number of different areas.
“What was clear was the desire for all parties present to work together to achieve the best outcome for those working at the CITB, and for the people of west Norfolk.”
At the meeting it was also agreed that a taskforce should be established to form a plan for the site’s future, comprising members of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, Norfolk County Council, New Anglia LEP, the College of West Anglia and Freebridge Community Housing.
Sir Henry said “positive possibilities” for the site’s future had been proposed.
The meeting also heard there had been several expressions of interest in taking over the construction college.
Saul Humphrey, chair of the Building Growth group at New Anglia LEP, who was at the meeting, said filling the construction industry’s skills gap must remain a priority as the CITB reforms itself.
“We need more people in our industry and modern methods of construction like never before. So training facilities and an agile, functional, responsive CITB is a really necessary thing.”
He added that colleges and smaller training providers “stood ready to fill the gap” in training for trades like plumbing, bricklaying and carpentry.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: “This was a valuable meeting and a really positive discussion between partners all keen to see the best possible outcome.
“Our discussions around setting up a taskforce for the Bircham Newton site and on retaining the card checking business in its current location were particularly useful.
“We look forward to continuing to work with all partners to secure the best result for staff at Bircham Newton, people and businesses in west Norfolk and for CITB.”