Totnes Town Council has made a multi-million pound offer to buy some of the local community college’s campus.
The authority has offered King Edward VI Community College £2.5million for its Lower School site, which includes the historic Elmhirst Building and playing fields.
KEVICC is hoping to raise a total of £7 million by selling off parcels of its land, so it can fund urgent improvements to the remaining site.
In a bid to save the Lower School from developer’s clutches, the town council has put in the ‘fair value’ offer for the site, which was listed as an Asset of Community Value by South Hams Council in November 2021.
The town council’s ambitious plans for the land off Ashburton Road include protecting and enhancing it for the community by creating a centre for sports, recreation, the arts, learning, craft, enterprise and renewable energy.
It also plans to improve pedestrian access to the River Dart for recreational activities, as well as footpaths and cycle paths to Totnes Railway Station and the town centre.
Because it is a local authority, the council can apply for loan funding at favourable rates of interest over 50 years – known as prudential borrowing.
The council’s £2.5 million formal offer to purchase the land follows on from a detailed feasibility study carried out at the end of last year.
Council clerk Catherine Marlton said the results of the study gave councillors the “confidence” to go ahead with its costly vision for the site.
The council’s market value offer would help the college raise the funds it needs and help safeguard the site for future generations, she added.
Ms Marlton said: “While it’s important to note we’re still at an early stage of negotiation, we’re committed to working closely with the community college and South Hams Council to make this project happen for the Totnes community.
“The site has huge potential to contribute to the social, environmental, and economic wellbeing of Totnes and to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of local people, especially young people.
“At the same time, we fully acknowledges the community college has an urgent need to raise a significant amount of capital.
“As a result, we’ve proposed a ‘win-win’ solution that will be in the best interest of the college and the town.
“That means offering to buy the site at a fair value that doesn’t disadvantage the college’s plans.
“We can afford to do this because we can take advantage of the public sector’s ability to apply for loan funding at favourable rates of interest over 50 years (known as prudential borrowing).”
With the offer now in place, the council hopes to start formal negotiations with KEVICC.
If its offer is accepted, the next stage will be to secure funding and launch a community consultation so local people, groups and community partners can help shape the concept and plans for the future of the site.
The college is planning to sell some 12 acres of its land – roughly the size of nine football pitches – which also include its sixth form centre and gardens, and the sheep field.
All three of the sites up for sale are allocated for housing in the Joint Local Plan.
The town council says it is “fully supportive” of the proposed provision of sustainable new housing and “careful improvements” to the town, and will work with KEVICC and the district council to meet the allocation within the overall area while still protecting and enhancing the Lower School site and Elmhirst Building for the community on a permanent basis.
KEVICC declined to comment on the council’s offer.