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2021 Is 'The Line In The Sand' For WSCC To Build Woodlands Meed's New College

8th November 2018 | By Peter Chapman

Supporters of the 'Complete Woodlands Meed' campaign were left disappointed at a meeting last Tuesday evening after they were told that a new College building wouldn't be completed until 2021 at the earliest - that is if the County Council actaully agree to financing the project.

It had previously been hoped that September 2020 was a reasonable date for possible completion.

In response, Chair of Governors Marion Wilcock said:

"The thing that we are concerned about is exactly the same as everybody else, which is slippage. November 2020 might well have been ambitious when we first started - as to be perfectly frank with you - we had not realised quite how many processes  there are with West Sussex County Council, but they are what they are and we will work our way through them.

"However, what we are determined, is that there should be no slippage from 2021 and in support of that, people may or may not know, that the *wonderful*  huts through which we cannot get the wheelchairs through the doors, are only on temporary permissions and they expire, one in 2019. So what we have agreed is that the temporary permission for that hut will be extended until 2021. That is the line in the sand, that is the agreement with everybody which nails the colours to the mast to say that September 2021 is when we’re expecting our college to be operational and open for our students, and I hope that helps everybody."

At the latest County Local Committee held at Haywards Heath Library, Cabinet member for Education and Skills Cllr Richard Burrett was once again in attendance to give an update as to the progress being made:

"As promised, we did have a discussion at the WSCC cabinet and we asked officers to proceed with studies on the replacement of the college site on the Newick House site – that was the preferred option after discussions with the governing body – and the architects from Hampshire county council were employed to carry out the feasibility study and the cabinet has agreed to basically start the ball rolling in terms of doing the work to get to that point.

"We still have to go through the processes of getting this into the county council’s capital programme. At the moment a strategic outline business case is being prepared and that will have to go through the governance process to get onto the capital programme. If, once that or hopefully that will occur in January, that would lead us to a position where the design fees would be approved, designs would be carried out, and we’d look to submit a planning application some time next Summer. Following that, we would have the full business case and the costings to determine where its at in the capital programme.

"That’s all I can really say at the moment, I appreciate people are saying ‘Can we please get on with it?’ What I would say, from the CLC meeting we had back in June and the cabinet meeting in July, things have moved as quickly as they are able to, it’s a very slow process in terms of getting a building of this size, having to go through all the hoops that you have to go through in terms of approvals, getting the funding, getting the planning permission etc, but we are on track."

Will The College Rebuild Get The Green Light?
There is still a very real possibility that the Woodlands Meed College rebuild project won't even make it onto the County Council's Capital Programme. Cllr Burrett admittted that there are some 'very difficult decisions to be made' due to there being lots of other projects needing to be done around the county along with a number of other school building projects all vying for funds.

Important Dates
There is a capital governance meeting in November, an annual cabinet meeting in late January, followed by a full meeting of West Sussex County Council in February where it will be decided which projects enter the capital programme. The next County Local Committee meeting will be in March 2019.

Richard Burrett has assured campigners that West Sussex County Council will work out the best way to release updates as the project progresses with campaigners very keen to be informed as various 'milestones' are reached.

For more reaction, see the 'Complete Woodlands Meed' campaign team's Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/CompleteWM/

Spread the word, Woodlands Meed have to wait and see if they can have a full college rebuild.

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What's your reaction to the news that its by no means certain that a new college will be built by September 2021..... if at all.

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