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4 Jun 2008 : Column 315WH—continued

Looking in more detail at the situation for Shrewsbury sixth form college, in 2004, the LSC commissioned a review of infrastructure in the area, which concluded that a significant amount of Shrewsbury sixth form college’s accommodation was no longer fit for purpose
4 Jun 2008 : Column 316WH
and that the estates do not lend themselves to the kind of flexibility needed for the modern curriculum encapsulated in the Government’s 14-to-19 reforms.

I understand that the site has many listed buildings. Much of the Shrewsbury sixth form college estate is subject to planning restrictions, and large areas of both Shrewsbury sixth form college and Shrewsbury college of arts and technology cannot be made compliant with the Disability Discrimination Acts. Shrewsbury sixth form college and Shrewsbury college of arts and technology commissioned separate property strategies in 2004 to inform them how best to address the issues. The property strategies examined a number of alternatives, including redevelopment of the existing college sites, relocation to alternative sites and co-location of both colleges on a single site.

After carefully weighing up the pros and cons of each option, the college governing body decided on co-location, because it presents the best opportunities for the college’s future development. Towards the end of 2006, the development of the project was put on hold due to objections to relocation of the sixth-form college from the town centre raised by the hon. Gentleman and a number of the sixth-form college staff. A review of the project was then undertaken, in which all known or current town centre sites for co-location were re-examined and reconsidered in some detail. In view of the aspirations of the educational case and the existing estate issues, continuing on the present site and other alternatives were ruled out. Addressing the objections raised regarding the potential loss of the sixth-form college’s distinctiveness and the impact on the town centre and transport has been built into the project execution plan, which is now being implemented.

I understand why the hon. Gentleman does not want to lose the college in his town centre, but after a lot of weighing up of the options, it has been decided to co-locate. In essence, the colleges will remain separate, but it is in the interests of young people in the area that co-location should go forward. That is the determination of the LSC and the governing bodies of the two organisations. The hon. Gentleman dissents from that, and he is entitled to do so, but it would be wrong of the Government to step in, to take sides and disrupt a local process, despite the understandable anxiety caused by changes in local circumstances.

It being Five o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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