BURTON and South Derbyshire College has lambasted a Government minister for causing a delay in a planning row which could leave the facility in financial dire straits.
The desperate organisation has accused secretary of state Eric Pickles of 'failing to deliver in his role', following continued indecision over plans to build 100 homes on college-owned land in Rolleston.
It says his lack of movement after 'calling in' the application flies in the face of Government rhetoric on increasing housing supply, and looks as if he is merely trying to 'curry favour' with voters, while leaving the college at risk of having to repay a £1 million grant which was dependent on the development.
Everton Burke, chairman of governors at the college, said: "We are currently upgrading a large portion of the college's estate and this inability to make a decision not only puts this much-needed work at risk, but gives the college a level of financial uncertainty, which is both unfair and unnecessary.
"As a major driver of economic regeneration through skills within our local community we cannot operate our business with such a lack of clarity."
The proposal relates to land south of Forest School Street, which is the field of the former Forest of Needwood Secondary School.
The site is allocated for housing in East Staffordshire Borough Council's draft local plan, but residents have expressed violent opposition to its use as housing in their neighbourhood development plan.
The conflict caused the proposals to be turned down by planners last year, and it was picked up by the secretary of state after the college appealed against the refusal.
Mr Pickles was due to reveal his decision in July, then August, but it has now been postponed again.
David Brammer, the college's solicitor, argued neither the delay nor the conflict were acceptable.
But Simon Anderson, chairman of the College Fields Action Group, which is opposing the development, said: "We do not find it unusual that the secretary of state should take an interest in one of the first planning cases in the country involving a large development that directly contradicts a neighbourhood plan in its final pre-adoption stages.
"We appreciate the college is relying on money it expected to make from the sale of the college field to fund its plans, but it is not the fault of the people of Rolleston that the college has committed money in the expectation of planning permission."
East Staffordshire Borough Council also came in for criticism from the college, with a spokesman saying the organisation was ‘encouraged’ by the authority, only to face issues as time went on.
A spokesman for the council vehemently denied that it had acted wrongly.
He added: “The site is allocated as part of the council’s Submission Local Plan, however this does not preclude the Council from making an alternative decision should it consider that other material considerations, in this instance the Rolleston Neighbourhood Plan, have more weight at the time of making such a decision.
"The council has not failed to deliver in its role, and will continue to await the decision of the secretary of state in relation to this contentious planning application. The examination hearings on the council’s Submission Local Plan are due to start on October 28.”