Wednesday 31 May 2017

Will property deals follow CNWL and CWC merger?

The CNWL Wembley Campus
The 'Fulton Quarter' site with CNWL just outside (bottom left)
The College of North West London (CNWL) and City of Westminster College (CWC) have announced that their respective corporations have agreed to a merger, subject to the approval of the Education Secretary, Justine Greening LINK.

Andy Cole, Principal of CNWL, who previously was Vice Principal of CWC, had emphasised the independence of CNWL when taking up the post after the retirement of Vicki Fagg in August 2013 LINK

Plans to merge the two colleges had been abandoned earlier in March 2013.

Cole said 
I believe the college is well placed to secure for itself a distinctive and independent future; a future that will see us delivering the very best opportunities for our students, business partners and communities; a future that will see the College as the destination of choice for vocational education and training.
Something has obviously happened to make him change his mind.

The CNWL has already sold off some of its property in Kilburn and Wembley and before the announcement of the merger was in talks with developers over its remaining Wembley Park building (the other is now occupied by Michaela Free School). 

The Wembley Park site is next door to the proposed development of the adjacent Wembley Retail Park and Fountain Studios renamed by Quintain as 'the Fulton Quarter' LINK  Given the Quintain developments around the stadium the college site is prime land. It has been suggested that there could be a higher education facility on the site.  

CNWL plans for the Wembley site included a housing component but at the meeting of the CNWL  Finance and Resources Committee on January 18th members discussed an approach made by Brent Council:
The college has been approached by Brent Council with a view to purchase the Wembley site, and they have intimated that they would not look favourably on planning permission for the required housing provision if the college proceeds with an alternative developer. 
The meeting minutes record that members went on to discuss when CWC should be told of Brent Council's interest and discussed whether the proposed developer should be made aware of Brent Council's approach. They discussed what influence Brent Council would have on the college's future and noted that under devolution Brent Council would in future be the funder for the Adult Skills Budget.

As readers of this blog have been reminded all too frequently the Brent Planning Committee is statutorily independent of the Council and charged with making decisions only on planning grounds so the message from Brent Council is particularly interesting.

Responding to the statutory consultation on the merger Brent Council said LINK:
SUPPORT; It enhances the breadth and relevance of learning opportunities for residents in Central and West London and will help to secure financial stability.
Public sector organisations are under presure to cash in on the value of their properties under the One Public Estate Strategy. Rationalisation of sites, letting surplus property at market rents, selling of sites for housing and redevelopment of sites retaining pubic sector facilities but also providing housing or commercial facilities have all formed part of the strategy.

The merger of CNWL and  CWC will doubtless lead to a review of their respective properties.

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