'Tomorrow's planning decision is crucial to future of college education in town'
CONCERNED college officials have claimed time will be running out for further education in Ilkeston if a planning application to develop the Field Road campus is rejected tomorrow night.
Derby College bosses said that much of the report going to tomorrow's Erewash Borough Council planning meeting was misleading and was not giving councillors the correct facts on which to base a decision.
The college wants to spend £10 million developing the former magistrates' court site in Pimlico as a town centre campus for 800 students and 200 staff.
But it needs money from the sale of the Field Road site – which it proposes to sell to Morrison's for the development of superstore and 39 homes – to enable the plan to go ahead.
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Erewash Borough Council officials have recommended refusing the application, even though councillors gave the go-ahead in August for the court site to be redeveloped as a college campus.
College vice-principal Nigel Gell said: "The council claims that it wants to develop the town's Albion shopping centre and says giving permission to the Field Road application would stop that happening.
"But the centre has been part of the council's retail master plan since 2007 and it hasn't happened so far.
"The Albion centre is not attractive to any supermarket chain because it is too small and difficult to develop.
"Developing the magistrates' court site will mean that trade will be attracted to the town centre from about 1,000 extra people each day."
Mr Gell is confident that the application would be successful if an appeal had to be lodged. He said: "But by then it would be too late because we need to start work on the new campus now.
"Even if we got the go-ahead tomorrow, we are already three months behind schedule and would have to open the new building in January 2014, instead of next September.
"We could always put a sticking plaster on Field Road to mend the crumbling buildings, which currently cost £750,000 a year to maintain."
Mr Gell said Derby College gave a commitment to Ilkeston to improve further education provision when it took over failing South East Derbyshire College in 2010.
He said: "But time is running out. The plan for the magistrates' court and the sale of Field Road are inextricably linked, which the council should understand.
"If councillors believe the new campus will go ahead without the sale of Field Road, they are mistaken.
"Our plans will create 350 jobs and secure 200 others at the college in what will be a £30 million investment in Ilkeston overall."
No-one from Erewash Borough Council wished to comment ahead of tomorrow's meeting.
The meeting takes place at Long Eaton Town Hall in Derby Road from 5.30pm.