Crowds turn out to say ‘save our college’

editorial image

‘Save our college, keep our knowledge’ was one of the battle cries of the scores of Todmorden residents who demonstrated against the closure of Todmorden Community College on Sunday.

Puppets and props provided by the Handmade Parade, who use the college annually for workshops in preparation for events in Todmorden, weaved through the town along with people holding handmade placards.

Local musicians also turned out as the demonstration marched from the college into town and back.

Former students at the college also came along, including Russell Taylor, who attended the first ever class at the college on September 19, 1955.

One resident Sofie Corfield explained why she felt it was important to demonstrate: “We don’t have much community space in Todmorden, so when I heard that Calderdale Council were attempting to sell off another of our assets to Aldi, I felt strongly that we had to make a stand.

“With Ferney Lee school being demolished soon, all those community clubs that use that building will have nowhere to meet, and might have to end.

“The college would be ideal if we could take it into community ownership and open it up. After all, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

The demo was organised by Save Our College In Todmorden, a new group that has sprung from the anger residents felt in response to the decision to sell and demolish the college.

An alternative business plan has been put together by the group, spearheaded by Barbara Jones, principal of the School Of Natural Building and Nick Green of Incredible Edible Farm.

The group wishes to save it from demolition and transform it into a national centre for the teaching of natural building skills, agro-ecology and micro-generation.

Barbara said: “Although Calderdale Council have said they will consider our proposal, they are far advanced in agreeing a deal with Aldi supermarket to demolish the College and allow Aldi to build a much bigger store than it already has planning permission for.

“The council meeting on April 3 will decide this, and are of the opinion that most people in Todmorden support the demolition of the college and agree with having a larger supermarket.”

Nearly 1,000 people have signed online and paper petitions, which will be presented to a meeting of Todmorden Development Board.

Todmorden Town Councillor Janet Battye said: “Don’t demolish Todmorden Community College and give the local community a chance to run it.

“That’s the simple message that local people are trying to give to Calderdale Council.

“And nearly 1,000 people have already signed the petition. If Calderdale Council decide that they don’t need the building any more, the next thing they should do is to give the opportunity to local people to see if they need it and can run it themselves.”

Picture by Richard Needham