Key team bids to take over hotel

19th December 1997 at 00:00
A top-level consortium of key players in schools and colleges is making a bid to take over two buildings run by the quango responsible for research and staff training in further education.

They intend to use Coombe Lodge and the Mendips Centre as a new-style community centre with leisure park and school governor training centre, and to provide courses for managers in further and higher education.

Last month, Coombe Lodge fell victim to cost-cutting plans announced by the Further Education Development Agency. FEDA wants to save Pounds 2.36 million by closing the former FE staff college, near Bristol, and create a new headquarters in London. FEDA also decided to sell off the Mendips Centre, used as a hotel for people on training courses.

The bid to buy the Mendips Centre and take over the lease of the staff college was put together by Keith Scribbins, who worked for the staff college.

His consortium includes the Local Government Association, Network Training (which is the biggest private provider of training in FE) and information technology firms.

Others expected to be drawn in include the Association of University Teachers, the Association of Principals of Colleges and the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.

Mr Scribbins told The TES: "This broad provision of education, training and leisure, based within a local community is where the centre and staff college were heading several years ago. We want to get it back on track."

He would not quote a price but suggested there would be little revenue for FEDA from Coombe Lodge - the stately home owned by Wills, the tobacco firm - "since there is a very short lease left on it".

A value of around Pounds 400,000 has been put on the Mendips Centre. The total bid is unlikely therefore to far exceed this. But, apart from the cash, the sale would also cut the annual overheads of the association considerably.

Leading figures behind him include Graham Lane, chairman of the LGA, and Dave Triesman, general secretary of the AUT. An initial approach has been made to Stephen Crowne, chief executive of FEDA. Mr Scribbins is hoping for a formal meeting to discuss the bid in the new year.

Coombe Lodge is set in a stunning location near Bristol and has been popular for wedding receptions and other social events. Private industry is also eager to use the hotel and lodge for residential training courses. "This is a purely commercial venture and we will be seeking no grant aid," he said.

Ian Nash

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