Sidmouth College principal backs campus idea

Sidmouth College principal backs town councillors’ wish-list idea to build educational campus for town

BUILDING an educational campus to replace Sidmouth College, to free up the site for housing, is not a pipe dream, says college principal Jeremy Roberts.

The idea is one of the wish-list points Sidmouth Town Council will present to East Devon District Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) panel on Tuesday.

Councillors drafted a l4-point document they want to see addressed, and areas they would like to see developed or protected in future.

Considering the infrastructure of the town, health provision, traffic, parking, education and waterbourne transport, councillors said: “Consideration might be given to an educational campus, north of the A3052, to replace Sidmouth College and release this site for housing.”

This gets Mr Roberts’ backing. He said: “I have talked about this with the councillors and local authority over the last two years. “Sidmouth College governors are pleased to have it on the table, simply because we are sitting in a building of 1965 vintage, built for a very different educational era.”

He said the site was “surrounded” on three sides by housing and the fourth by The Byes and AONB, leaving the college with no potential to expand to provide more facilities.

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He believes building an educational campus “for the current millennium, could truly meet the needs of young people in the Sid Valley.”

Mr Roberts explained: “We can’t encroach on the playing fields as the Department of Education has strict rules about building on sports and leisure facilities.”

The college has already lost tennis courts to build a new English/language department.

Another issue that needs addressing is having to use the main hall for serving lunches as well as for assemblies and teaching.

Building an educational campus would, said Mr Roberts, “be the best way forward, partially funded by releasing the value of this land.”

Although the site would not raise the expected �40-�50 million needed for a new campus, Mr Roberts is looking to future funding by Government.

“It is not a pipe dream. It is important to talk about it. It will not happen in three to five years and if we are not talking about it, it will not happen.”

With nearly 900 students plus staff, 1,000 using the inadequate access to the college, the principal added: “It causes no end of grief because we don’t have enough parking space, so staff and visitors park outside nearby houses and I do have sympathy for our neighbours.”

A Devon County Council spokesman said: “We will always look at suggestions from partner councils, but money is tight at the moment across the public sector.”

Councillor John Hollick will present the town council’s LDF wish-list to EDDC on Tuesday.