Battle hots up over the future of college site

Campaigners gather at the college to send out their message
Campaigners gather at the college to send out their message

The battle for Todmorden Community College is raging on following the creation of a new group to ‘save’ the site from the clutches of supermarket giant Aldi.

The ‘Save our College in Todmorden’ group wants the college building, on Burnley Road, to be transformed into a community hub and a centre for teaching future skills including agroecology, natural building and alternative energy.

The group sprung to life after the Todmorden Development Board voted to recommend Aldi’s plans for the site to Calderdale Council’s Cabinet. The proposals would see the supermarket chain acquire the Burnley Road site, create a bigger store than the one planning permission has been granted for and build a children’s centre and youth service facility.

But campaigners hope the building can be revived and a business plan is now being put together to outline the alternative proposal. It is being spearheaded by the Todmorden-based School of Natural Building (SNaB) and Incredible Edible Farm (IEF).

Nick Green, founder of IEF, said: “The Aldi plan is fine if you believe in supermarkets - but we don’t need it. They are not the worst supermarket by any means, but do we need another one? Calderdale Council has given us until March 1 to put the business plan together. We need people to tell us they want to use this bit of the college or that bit of the college and ‘this is what we are able to pay’.”

Barbara Jones, principal of SNaB, added that round 60 per cent of the building would be used for education, 20 per cent would house current tenants and the remaining 20 per cent would be used for other community activities.

It’s hoped the revamped building would bring in “young people with energy and enthusiasm” and place Todmorden on the map as the green skills learning hub of the country. There are now plans for a community benefit society to be set up to form the body which would take over the running of the new ‘Todmorden Learning Centre’. Fundraising is underway to make this happen and to help cover the costs of the campaign. Donations can be made via a Go Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/save-our-college-in-todmorden and a fundraising event is going to be held at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, on March 23.

Todmorden town councillor Janet Battye (Lib-Dem, Stoodley) has welcomed the alternative plans for the building, which has been nominated to become an ‘asset of community value’.

She said: “This does give us a good opportunity for the town to work together for the future and we think that’s the best way for this to work for the future of the town.”

Councillors Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) and Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth), both members of the Todmorden Development Board, met with representatives from Incredible Farm and Barbara Jones.

Councillor Press said: “We have listened to what they have to say and asked them to submit a formal report on their plans which will help us assess the viability of the project.”

Mark Thompson, Calderdale Council’s director of economy and environment, added the council is engaging with all interested parties.