Hunts college gets Tory support
HUNTINGDONSHIRE Regional College s stalled move from Oxmoor to new �40million premises at Hinchingbrooke was this week backed by a Shadow Minister. But the college accepts that a new �10million campus planned for St Neots may have to come in a second wave
HUNTINGDONSHIRE Regional College's stalled move from Oxmoor to new �40million premises at Hinchingbrooke was this week backed by a Shadow Minister.
But the college accepts that a new �10million campus planned for St Neots may have to come in a second wave of funding.
Shadow Universities Minister David Willetts, who visited the 1960s-built Oxmoor site on Monday, said he was convinced that refurbishment at California Road was not an option.
The Tories would abandon the present "bus stop queue" for funding from the Learning and Skills Council, if elected in a General Election that must take place in the next year, he told The Hunts Post during a visit in support of the party's European Election campaign.
The HRC move, which already has planning permission and zoning of the present site for housing, fell foul of the LSC's funding crisis, when it ran out of cash last year.
The LSC was to have provided three-quarters of the cost of the new Huntingdon campus, on the police playing field off Hinchingbrooke Park Road, with the balance coming from land sale, reserves and borrowing, said college principal Anne Constantine.
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If the move does not happen, the college will have to write off the �750,000 it has already spent on planning the move, she added. A temporary refurbishment at California Road would cost �10million, but would fail to deliver the college's ambitious improvement plans.
Mr Willetts said he wanted to see the college's problems at first hand, and he had been convinced that refurbishment was not a realistic or cost-effective option for HRC.
"The strong arguments the college has put to me is that it is at the end of its useful life, the new site is much more accessible, and the �30million cost [to the Government] is a lot less than many of the capital projects I have been briefed on," he said.
"I can't make a commitment today, but these are three very strong arguments. Something I could envisage is a two-stage development.
"But money is going to be tight. On some calculations, the shortfall [for further education capital projects] is several billions. There was a complete collapse of budgetary control in the LSC.
"The ethos of the bus stop queue, where the first to be submitted is the first to be financed, is not necessarily how we should decide capital projects in further education. I'm looking at real-world criteria."
Mrs Constantine said a phased approach to funding would mean HRC having to re-design the projects. But the Government is expected to announce a new capital programme for further education in the autumn, "and we are going to progress the site acquisition".