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Farm and business sectors offer their support as Suffolk New College - Otley merger takes shape

PUBLISHED: 15:55 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 27 September 2019

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College,  Mark Pendlington  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College, Mark Pendlington Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Two consultation meetings over the future of Easton and Otley College - which is set to be broken up and joined with two mainstream further education (FE) colleges in their area - have gone well, according to its chair of governors.

James Forrest, chair of the Felix Cobbold Trust, has urged stakeholders to get behind Suffolk New College - Otley merger  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJames Forrest, chair of the Felix Cobbold Trust, has urged stakeholders to get behind Suffolk New College - Otley merger Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mark Pendlington said the meetings at Trinity Park, Ipswich, and the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association about the split, and subsequent mergers with Suffolk New College and City College Norwich, had been well attended.

More than 70 people representing all the main rural organisations attended in total, posing "good, constructive questions" and offering "support throughout", he said.

They stressed the need to protect and promote long-term land-based provision, and lead the agenda as the sector develops post Brexit - and received strong assurances from both FE college principals.

The merger process - which involves legal and financial due diligence - is progressing well, and remains on track to meet the timetable of merging at the end of the year.

Viv Gillespie, principal of Suffolk New College, at Otley College campus. Suffolk New College is taking over Otley, which is being broken up from Easton, and will become part of Suffolk New College  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNViv Gillespie, principal of Suffolk New College, at Otley College campus. Suffolk New College is taking over Otley, which is being broken up from Easton, and will become part of Suffolk New College Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

At the Otley meeting, Mr Pendlington set out the journey so far for Easton and Otley College and the "exciting potential" for the region under the plans, and Suffolk New College principal outlined how the forthcoming partnership would work.

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She was joined by Suffolk New Colleges chair of governors Roger Fern, vice principal Mary Gleave and deputy principal Alan Pease.

After the presentation, attendees - including representatives from the agriculture, charities and construction sectors, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Suffolk County Council and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce - formed discussion groups about the future plans.

Christina Sadler, an independent merger consultant assisting Easton and Otley College, said: "The presentations were very well received and engagement was good. Challenging and detailed questions were asked and the atmosphere was hugely positive.

"The session concluded with one of the guests - James Forrest, chairman of the Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust - positively encouraging everyone to get behind the Suffolk New College bid to revitalise the Otley campus."

The deadline for public comments on the merger is midnight on Tuesday, October 1. Visit www.eocmerger.co.uk

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