Last ditch fight for Oaklands College redevelopment

PUBLISHED: 19:37 19 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

Mark Dawe

Mark Dawe

OAKLANDS College principal Mark Dawe is racing against time to get funding back on stream for a proposed £120 million development project. But he knows he could face an uphill task persuading the Learning Skills Council (LSC) to honour its agreement to pa

OAKLANDS College principal Mark Dawe is racing against time to get funding back on stream for a proposed £120 million development project.

But he knows he could face an uphill task persuading the Learning Skills Council (LSC) to honour its agreement to pay half the costs of creating a state-of-the art educational establishment.

A desperate Mr Dawe said: "It has been a case of make do and mend with our existing premises but in two years time we will find we have serious problems with the fabric of our buildings. The morale of our staff and students is very low."

Speed is of the essence as the LSC meets on June 3 to prioritise the distribution of a new tranche of Government money after it over-extended itself and ran out of cash.

The soon-to-be dismantled LSC had promised Oaklands £60 million but found itself in a mess when it ran out of funds.

Oaklands has the additional problem of awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State on its planning application for the new-look college at Smallford and £40 million-worth of land sales on various other campus sites.

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.

But if the necessary permissions are not in place by June 3 when the LSC meet to allocate cash to various projects, Oaklands could lose out as a result.

Mr Dawe said: "We have been trying to intercede with the Secretary of State to get the decision before June 3 but have been told it may not happen until July 13.

"We have also been frantically lobbying support to try and get the LSC to grant us some leeway timewise on the grounds that we are shovel-ready. All the tenders have gone out and we have a construction firm ready and willing to start the work."

He added that a new contractor had been selected to take over the building from Verry Construction, the building firm headed by St Albans City Football Club boss John Gibson. Verry Construction has gone into administration but Leadbitter has taken over the contract.

Oaklands has already spent £9 million putting together its plans for the new college.

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