Sale of Wakefield College campus could pay for city’s university

Newspaper: Wakefield Express.'Story: Thornes Park college campus is going to be up for sale.'Photo date: 08/10/15'Picture Ref: AB307a1015
Newspaper: Wakefield Express.'Story: Thornes Park college campus is going to be up for sale.'Photo date: 08/10/15'Picture Ref: AB307a1015

Wakefield College is planning to sell off its Thornes campus despite fears a new development would “destroy” theGrade II listed park.

The college will meet with officers and councillors at Wakefield Council, as well as representatives from The Friends of Clarence, Holmefield and Thornes Park group (CHaTs), to discuss beginning the sale, which has now been approved by the college’s governing body.

Bosses at the college have said they need to make money from the site.

But they maintained they would also discuss other ways of generating income from it, aside from a sale.

Some of the funds would contribute to the development of a new multi-million pound skills centre, which would deliver more higher education courses in the city.

And it could pave the way for the city’s first university centre.

Principal Sam Wright said: “The disposal of our Thornes Park Campus has been part of our property strategy for some time as the site is not viable for the college to continue to run.

“The money raised from the disposal will enable continued development of our other facilities for our Wakefield City and Castleford campuses, including our University Centre.”

But CHaTs’ chairman Ian Deighton and vice-chairman Chris Welch said the possible sale of the land could “destroy” the Grade II listed park.

Mr Welch said: “If the land is sold and used for a permanent development, like housing, it would have a major effect on the local community.

“It could lead to a road through the park to service a residential development.

“We want to make sure whatever development takes place doesn’t have an adverse impact on the park.

“There are 700 people in the Friends group who want to protect the park and have its best interests at heart.”

Wakefield Council provided £2m of support for the college’s university plans last year.

Council leader Peter Box said: “It would raise aspirations, contribute to the district’s knowledge base and support the economy by raising skill levels and encouraging high quality jobs.”

A decision on whether or not the college will receive a £3.5m funding boost from the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, has been deferred until next month.

The “disposal” of the land is not expected to be completed before 2017.

Thornes Park was given listed status by Historic England, formerly English Heritage, in 2011.

It was designated a ‘historic park’ with features from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

While its listed status doesn’t prevent development in the park, as a Grade II space, the Garden History Society and Historic England would have to be consulted in the planning process.