Funding pulled on Oaklands College project

PUBLISHED: 14:37 30 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:14 06 May 2010

A NEW £120 million college project looks to be dead in the water after the Government pulled the plug on funding this week. Oaklands College principal Mark Dawe, who has spent the last four years working towards the creation of the so-called hub and spoke

A NEW £120 million college project looks to be dead in the water after the Government pulled the plug on funding this week.

Oaklands College principal Mark Dawe, who has spent the last four years working towards the creation of the so-called hub and spoke scheme, was told on Friday that the £60 million he needed would not now be forthcoming.

The existing fabric of the college, which has two campuses in St Albans, is a constant source of frustration to staff and students alike who have been keenly looking forward to getting a state-of-the art educational establishment.

The college had hoped to build a new "hub" at the Smallford campus in Hatfield Road with "spokes" at the St Albans, Welwyn Garden City and Borehamwood campuses. The planning application was called in by the Secretary of State and a decision is awaited.

The funding trouble started when the soon-to-be dismantled Learning Skills Council (LSC) promised Oaklands £60 million but found itself in a mess when it ran out of funds. The Government stepped in with a £500 million rescue package to be shared between 80 colleges.

On Friday it was announced that only 13 colleges had been successful in their bids for funding - mainly colleges in areas of economic deprivation.

The only crumb of comfort for Oaklands is that the LSC will refund the £9 million it has already spent in setting up the scheme.

Mr Dawe said he had not completely given up hope of eventually being able to provide better facilities for students and staff and was investigating the possibility of rebuilding and refurbishing existing premises.

He went on: "It has taken eight years to get to this point - four of which I have been involved in. It's the staff and students I feel sorry for. It's the end of their dream for a superb purpose-built centre of excellence."

But he said he and the governors would now be trying to look at how they could use the money they had gained from land sales and the £9 million refund to maximum effect.

He said: "It will be a question of prioritising areas of greatest need like the sports facilities which are dire."

MP Anne Main, who supported the project wholeheartedly, said she felt very sad for the people who had worked so hard to make it happen.

She added: "This is yet another example of my constituents losing out to economically deprived areas. They pay the highest taxes yet get nothing back for their efforts. I will be writing to the Minister to protest."

One such deal involves the construction of 62 homes on the Smallford campus. Wimpey wants to build a small housing estate on the site of the old greenhouses with around a third of the homes being dedicated to social housing.

The decision from the Secretary of State is widely expected to be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks.


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