Over the last few weeks, constituents have contacted me regarding the future of the Five Acres site at Berry Hill, once Gloucestershire College complete their move to Cinderford’s Northern Quarter.
I have always supported the plans for the new college, as a once in a life time opportunity for the Forest of Dean, providing new opportunities for young people from across the entire local area. I am looking forward to the College opening in just a few months’ time.
With regards to what happens next at Five Acres, I have been in contact with local community campaign group FANS (Five Acres Not for Sale) and West Dean Parish Council.
Following this, I wrote to Peter Williams, Head of Paid Service at the Forest of Dean District Council (FODDC) and Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Homes England (HE) and asked them to confirm what is happening with the site.
HE’s preference was to sell the whole site to the FODDC, however they have now decided to split it, and sell it as two separate transactions. The playing fields will be sold to West Dean Parish Council for £1 ensuring that local people will always benefit from them.
HE’s intention has always been to sell the rest of the site to the FODDC and this remains the case. It will be independently valued and HE are working with FODDC officers to achieve the sale of the land.
I know residents are concerned about the Leisure Centre, which is operated by Freedom Leisure on behalf of the FODDC, and I raised this with Mr Williams when I wrote to him. He wasn’t able to give me assurances about the long term future of the Centre, but has confirmed the Council are doing significant work on this issue.
I’m pleased that HE have confirmed that this is a decision that should be made locally. Clearly the decision on the future provision of leisure services is one for the FODDC to take, but we now have confirmation HE are doing all they can to ensure the Council is in a position to make this decision as soon as possible.