Plea to Whitehall to save college

RICHARD PARR Ministers were last night urged to intervene to secure the future of Norfolk's construction training college. Skills minister Phil Hope has been urged to show greater flexibility in the way the National Construction College at Bircham Newton, near Fakenham, is funded.

RICHARD PARR

Ministers were last night urged to intervene to secure the future of Norfolk's construction training college.

Skills minister Phil Hope has been urged to show greater flexibility in the way the National Construction College at Bircham Newton, near Fakenham, is funded.

The appeal for government intervention from John Dobson, leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, comes amid continuing concerns about the college's future.

The college had wanted to sell off surplus land for residential development to fund a major £15m modernisation of its campus and provide community leisure facilities.

But it was refused planning consent by both the local authority and a public planning inquiry.

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The college has warned that without the funding from the sell-off, it would have to consider closing or re-locating some departments with the loss of local jobs.

Mr Dobson said that the college's status as a national training centre means that its funding should be debated at Whitehall level.

Last night Mr Dobson: "The borough council is keen to ensure the future survival of the National Construction College as a key national facility and as an important local employer."

He added: "The council has undertaken a major campaign to lobby the government and the Learning and Skills Council in support of the college management's efforts to resolve the current funding shortfall."

Mr Dobson has written to Minister for Skills Phil Hope to try and persuade the Learning and Skills Council to show greater flexibility in the way it provides funding for the college."

Acting college director Andy Walder said at the end of last year the college business plan was accepted by LSC to set up the National Skills Academy of Construction.

"This offers training on major construction sites but it could mean that we could apply for capital funding to improve specialist training provision across England delivered through our existing centres - including Bircham Newton," he said.

"In view of this we are again approaching the LSC and hoping there will be greater flexibility around capital funding."