THE CHAIR of governors for college group WCG believes negotiations to sell the former Malvern Hills College to a local charitable trust have reached gridlock.
But West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin has repeated her call to Warwickshire College Group to come to the table to negotiate a compromise deal which will allow the college to reopen as soon as possible.
The decision to close the college, which WCG said was making a loss, was taken in November 2020 and it closed its doors in July 2021.
The WCG said the Education and Skill Funding Agency (ESFA) confirmed there was no functional need for a college providing 16 to 18 or adult Government-funded courses in the Malvern district.
Ms Baldwin, meanwhile, met with the Bransford Trust to hear an update on the progress of negotiations and has agreed to write to the Group’s chairman, Peter Manford, to renew her offer of mediation.
The Trust has made a formal offer to take over the site and return teaching to the historic site but she claimed the Leamington Spa-based college management continued to stall on the process.
Ms Baldwin said: “I have kept in close touch with the Bransford Trust through this process and I am fully supportive of their efforts to offer what I consider to be a fair price to take the site over.
“It simply cannot be sensible that a publicly-funded educational establishment like Warwickshire College Group can be allowed to let an old college building fall in to ruin.
“I understand that there are simple sticking points that could easily be resolved with sensible negotiations but the WCG management have so far refused to come to the table.
“I have repeated my offer that an independent mediator should be engaged to allow this deal to move forward and allow WCG to exit from this situation without further damage to its reputation.”
Peter Manford, chair of the board of WCG Governors. said: “We agreed several months ago to sell the site, at well below market price, to allow the Bransford Trust to try to operate it as an educational establishment.
“However, we obviously need reasonable protection against any future uplift in value, should the trust decide to sell the site in years to come.
“In the circumstances this is a standard request, which the Trust should be comfortable to accommodate if it has confidence in its business plan.
“It is, therefore, a major concern that the Trust remains unable to satisfy this requirement, particularly as this has been stated as an essential and non-negotiable part of our dealings from the outset.
“That requirement is part of the duty which we have as governors, to protect the interests of public funding.
“We are intent upon complying correctly with that duty as we are sure people would expect.”
He said as the Trust had been unable to meet the requirement negotiatons had ceased.
“We have now done everything we can reasonably do to facilitate a sale to the Bransford Trust and regret that in the end despite many months of intensive negotiation, an agreement could not be reached that we could sign off whilst satisfying our legal obligations.”