Bassetlaw MP says council misled the public over Worksop “university campus”

Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith says the district council has “misled” the public over a planned education facility in Worksop town centre.

The MP, who is calling for leader Simon Greaves to “stand aside”, says the council “promised” a “university campus” while bidding for Government funding last year.

However last week they announced the new centre would be a “Skills and Education campus” - if their bid for £3.5 million from the Getting Building Fund was successful.

Though Brendan claims the council has “misled” the public there are no references in its original funding bid to provision of university courses at Bridge Court.

Pictured are Jack Bowker, Bassetlaw Council Vice Chair, Simon Greaves, and Bassetlaw MP Brendan Brendan Clarke-Smith when funding was announced in August

Rather, the bid committed only to “increase the engagement of local people in higher education” and Bassetlaw Council say the skills hub will offer higher education diplomas at Levels 4, 5 and 6 – which is the equivalent of a standard Bachelors degree.

Last week Bassetlaw Council announced that, rather than being a university campus, the centre - now named Worksop Access to Skills Hub (WASH) - would be an access route to higher education courses.

Brendan, speaking in a video shot outside Bridge Court, told how in August he announced funding for a university campus after lobbying the Government on behalf of the council.

The MP told of his “disappointment” regarding “outright denials (from the council) that there was ever a plan for a university campus”.

Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith has called on council leader Simon Greaves (pictured) to “stand aside” in a row over the town's Bridge Court "university campus"

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Speaking to the camera he said: “There have been some claims that it was never a university campus and that it had never been called a university campus.

“In fact some have suggested from the council that I was the person who originally used this term.

“This is simply not true and we have documentary evidence to show the bid by Bassetlaw District Council, approved by the Government, specifically referred to a university campus in Worksop.”

Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith. Photo: London Portrait Photoqrapher-DAV

Speaking about the plans in August, Brendan described his hopes that “Bridge Court campus” would bring “new life” into the town centre - with some commuting in from Nottingham and Sheffield while a need for accommodation could kickstart the regeneration of old buildings such as those around the canal.

Documents seen by Worksop Guardian show that last year D2N2 - who vet bids for a share in the Government’s £44 million Getting Building Fund - described the regeneration of Bridge Court as delivering “a state-of-the-art university campus in Worksop town centre” in a submission to the fund.

Speaking about the council’s original funding bid Brendan added: “To double-down and say the university campus was never a prospect in the first place when there is documentary evidence is quite simply wrong.

“In this case the council were wrong and the council leader was wrong.”

The MP said he believed Councillor Greaves should “do the decent thing and step aside”.

Bassetlaw Council says North Notts College’s RNN Group will be the “main education provider” at WASH - in conjunction with the University of Derby who will provide access to learning resources.

The courses offered will include access to higher education diplomas at Levels 4, 5 and 6 - including degree level - in areas including health, digital and green technology.

WASH will also work alongside Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust “to meet the trust’s workforce demands - providing an increase of higher skilled jobs in the medium term”.

Reacting to Brendan’s comments Jo White, cabinet member for regeneration at Bassetlaw District Council described them as “disappointing”.

She said: “It has taken a year and a half of hard work to get to this point and the MP has had no involvement in the project at all.

"It is extremely disappointing that the MP has chosen make these politically-motivated statements and attempt to damage a project that will improve residents’ futures.

“This project is more than a university campus – it will create more jobs for local people, add value to our town centre, bring more people into Worksop and give confidence to the many businesses that have been decimated by coronavirus.”

Councillor White described the skills hub as “an extremely positive project” - though the council was still waiting for Government funding.

She said: “We presented this business case (to D2N2) at the beginning of January and subject to approval we expect to be awarded £3.5 million that will kickstart work on the Worksop Access to Skills Hub.

“Our skills and education campus will give thousands of Bassetlaw people the opportunity to elevate their ambitions and improve their future prospects.

“This project is about delivering a step change for Bassetlaw - providing wider opportunities for local people and raising aspirations and ambitions.”

Speaking about the plans in August Richard Parker OBE, Chief Executive at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said the campus would enable the trust to upskill and offer further academic opportunities to its current workforce.

He added: “It will support local people to kickstart their career in the NHS offering fantastic work placements to complement their academic studies.”

Nicole Chavaudra, of Bassetlaw Integrated Care Partnership, said the development would “lock-in” local talent to careers in health, care and other employment sectors in Worksop “as well as being an asset to the town centre which will improve the wellbeing and economic growth of Bassetlaw”.

Though MP Brendan says questions remain over what was originally promised by the council he spoke positively about Bridge Court’s links with hospitals in August, describing the funding as a way of securing long-term investment in Bassetlaw Hospital.

He said: “For the last 20-30 years people have worried about the hospital but this shows we’re expanding on it - it will enable us to create a health hub in Worksop.

“And because this is such a central location people coming in from the train station can just walk down the hill.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.