Communities pay the price of capital fallout

17th July 2009 at 01:00

The community of Mansfield and I feel cheated by the Learning and Skills Council's decision not to grant West Nottinghamshire College funding to begin its building project this autumn.

It was bad enough that this should have happened, but we had been led to believe that the work would start in March this year. Therefore, the decision has added insult to injury.

A new campus for the college is key to the master plan of development for the Mansfield district and a central focus for future growth. The LSC's decision could have serious repercussions, not only for education in Mansfield - regarded as Nottinghamshire's second city - but also for regeneration of the area.

West Nottinghamshire College has become one of the top 10 further education facilities in the country. It was judged outstanding by Ofsted in 2008, and it has helped so many people, of all ages, to achieve in further and higher education. Its growth and development is fundamental to the future potential of our citizens.

Currently, Mansfield, as a district, is categorised by low educational attainment and a low skill, low wage economy. Although there has been improvement in average weekly earnings, they are still below the national and regional averages. Without the new campus, the status quo could prevail.

Capital development for the college would not only help to address the problem of low educational achievement among young people, but also help in the regeneration of the district by offering investors training links in a state-of-the-art technology park that was planned to be built adjacent to the new campus.

Not going ahead with this technology park could have serious implications for inward investment into the district. The park would offer space for fledgling businesses in 40 small units, alongside a small number of larger units. This was estimated to generate Pounds 30 million in inward investment.

In addition, the proposed campus is key to the development of 175 acres along the Mansfield and Ashfield regeneration route skirting the city, which had aimed to create 10,000 jobs.

Four hundred additional jobs would have been created in the construction industry, about 100 more involved in the technology park, and further jobs involved in manufacturing materials and so on.

The decision will also have a detrimental effect on young people looking to find work and training, since the project would have provided on-the- job training for about 30 apprentices, and possible links between the college and industry.

Extra posts in teaching and a new wave of ancillary staff are also in jeopardy, which is especially unwelcome for our residents during the current economic climate.

Everything was in place for the building work to begin in March this year; both Mansfield and Ashfield district councils had granted full planning permission (as the new campus falls within both district boundaries). But that was before the LSC decided to award funding for only 13 college capital projects.

The sense of anger and frustration in the district is understandable because of the serious impact this decision could have on the regeneration of Mansfield and the surrounding areas - effects that could be felt for generations to come.

Tony Egginton, Executive mayor of Mansfield and chair of the Sherwood Growth Zone Partnership.

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