Court rules in support of WCG

WCG’s CEO has welcomed the court judgement that the covenant placed on the Malvern Hills College site should be lifted.

Following a court hearing on June 14, the Judge has ruled in favour of WCG in all aspects of the case.

Angela Joyce, CEO of WCG, said: “We are pleased with the ruling and it reflects the ESFA’s determination from 2021 that there was no functional need for a Further Education college in Malvern.

“Closing a College site is always a last resort decision and nobody who works in further education ever wants to see provision reduced. Colleges play a key role in driving the economy forward and in training people with the skills to gain jobs or to enhance their careers.

“Malvern Hills College was different from almost all Colleges in that it provided adult leisure learning which did bring benefits but did not qualify for Government funding which focuses on skills training.

“We are still open to offers and willing to strike a deal which will see Malvern Hills College site sold to the community.

“At the same time given that the various community bids have not come to fruition in the last two years, the college group will be exploring other options including the potential leasing of the site until a sale is agreed.

“We are not here to profiteer, but as a charity our governors do have a duty to achieve appropriate value for our assets.

“It is disappointing that we were forced to pursue court proceedings and endure pointed and personal criticism to reach this point, when we have simply remained consistent and transparent in our approach since November 2020.

“Our efforts have been continually disrupted by voices speaking in the media, commentary without understanding the full landscape and, disappointingly, intimidating behaviour.”

WCG announced the closure of its Malvern Hills College (MHC) site in November 2020. This followed the COVID-19 pandemic where the College decided it was no longer able to subside MHC which was the only loss-making College in its group.

The small provision for young people was transferred to Evesham College where travel was fully subsidised.

WCG sought to transfer the adult leisure learning to other local providers who were able to provide locations for the creative arts courses that had been taking place for the retirees who had been attending MHC.

This transfer was blocked by a number of key individuals within the Malvern community and regrettably the decision became political.

Since that time, WCG has had dialogue with a series of community groups who expressed an interest in purchasing the MHC site, including Worcestershire Community Foundation, The Bransford Trust, Malvern Hills Arts & Community College Ltd,

Worcestershire County Council and most recently Malvern Hills District Council.

WCG entered into these discussions openly and with a willingness to sell the site for less than its market value and all those who initially expressed interest ended the dialogue.

Having spent two years trying to seal a deal with a community group, WCG was left with an empty, surplus asset where the proceeds could benefit the thousands of students at its six other sites.

Malvern Hills District Council refused to lift the covenant on the site thus preventing its sale.

Following the court hearing, the Judge has ruled in favour of WCG in all aspects of the case, in particular, determining that the conditions of the covenant have been met and the council is withholding its release unreasonably.

WCG will still sell the site to Malvern Hills District Council if the council steps forward with a proposal in the very near future. It is expected that the council will be paying WCG’s costs of the court case given the ruling was made in full favour of WCG on all points raised.

WCG regrets that the behaviour of a number of key individuals within the community has created unnecessary unpleasantness and considers that the court hearing may well have been prevented if individuals had behaved differently.

The college group still hopes that the community purchases the site and that it can continue to serve the leisure needs of retirees in the local area.