Agenda item


Cabinet is asked to allocate the Council owned Blackfriars site in Hereford for possible use as a Higher Education (HE) Centre and reserve it for that purpose.



The Cabinet Member Economic Development and Community Services, Councillor AJ Blackshaw introduced the item and informed Cabinet the Higher Education for Herefordshire Management Board was currently preparing applications to various funding pots to develop a Higher Education facility in the county, including a bid to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) University Challenge Initiative.  To demonstrate support and commitment to the bid in the form of local contributions, Cabinet was being requested to consider the allocation of the Council’s Blackfriars site as a possible location for the Higher Education Centre, as the Council element of the site was due to become surplus to requirement as part of the broader accommodation strategy.  Members were informed that the deadline for submission of a ‘statement of intent’, the first stage of the process, would be 30 June 2009, following which, if supported, a full business plan would be drawn up and submitted by the end of the year.


Geoff Hughes, Director of Regeneration informed Cabinet of the wider vision for the site should the bid be successful as outlined in Appendix 1 of the report.  It was planned that a Higher Education Centre would provide student accommodation, a students union and conference facilities; collectively the HE centre would also provide a significant benefit to the tourism offer of the county.


Responding to comments raised by Members, the Director of Regeneration advised Cabinet that there were important and integral links between higher end skills development and employability.  For a Higher Education Centre bid to be successful strong links with the business community would need to be demonstrated and it would be necessary to outline how the higher education offer would engage with businesses in the locality to provide a firm basis for the further development of skilled jobs.


The Cabinet Member Economic Development and Community Services, Councillor AJ Blackshaw, responding to points raised by Members, stated that currently around 250 individual 18-25 year olds attended out of the county higher education facilities, therefore a higher education establishment in the county would provide an option for young people to remain and study in the county whilst attracting individuals from other authorities areas.  The Cabinet Member informed Cabinet that there was currently significant skills shortage in the county for example in engineering.  With the GDP of the county being  £2.5billion, of which only 7% related to agriculture, there was a need to ensure the higher education initiative was closely aligned with positive growth in the county’s businesses and business opportunities.


In welcoming and supporting the initiative, Members raised the following additional points:

·         A higher education facility in the county would provide a small, but important number of professional positions in academia.

·         It was important to consider the long term economy of the county in line with the ESG 30 year project and ensure that a Higher Education Centre was a flagship project and a centre of excellence.

·         A higher education facility would encourage high quality students to remain within the county once qualified and could assist with reducing the cost associated with higher education e.g. travel, accommodation.  An example was given relating to the former Hereford Teacher Training College which demonstrated that if quality higher education facilities were made available, skilled and professional people could be retained in the county.

·         The suggested use for the Blackfriars site was a positive option which far outweighed other possibilities.




(a)                The allocation of the Council’s Blackfriars site as a location for a possible Higher Education Centre be approved, and;


(b)               Authority be delegated to the Director of Regeneration, in consultation with the Director of Resources, to finalise arrangements subject to development of a robust business plan.

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