‘Jewel in the crown’ academy clash beckons for politicians

Artist's impression of the Aylesbury Centre
Artist's impression of the Aylesbury Centre
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Politicians are on course for a showdown over £16million plans for a new academy and whether it is a good commercial deal.

The Aylesbury Centre (formerly known as The Waterside Academy before a recent name change) will specialise in further education and would be run as a joint venture between Aylesbury College and Bucks New University known as BEST.

District council and the two education units are currently in negotiations over a 25 year lease period with a fixed interest rate and an option of buying the building.

District council would borrow the money for the centre which would be built in 2014.

Conservative councillor Phil Yerby said several members are concerned by the plans and that they believe they are being rushed through ahead of a full council meeting tonight (Wednesday).

He said: “The major concern is this has only just come about. That site is considered to be the jewel in the crown of Aylesbury.

“It should be used to attract high quality spend into the town and for getting a commercial return.

“They should be looking to generate their own finance and buy it off us at a commercial rate.

“If this is such a great deal for the council why is no private finance considered as an opportunity in this?”

Cabinet member for resources Neil Blake disagreed and said the centre would attract a higher earners to the town.

He said: “There’s going to be places for 670 students. They are on quite often short courses and these are mature students.

“Lots of them who are coming here will be from companies who sponsor them to go on courses. The chances are they will have more disposable income so they will be spending more money in the town.”

Mr Blake stressed that nothing had been signed with BEST and that council was in the ‘interim stages’ of negotiations.

The four-storey academy will also feature two restaurants and a cafe open to the public on the ground floor.

Mr Blake said the council would offer advice to BEST on which restaurants to the bring in but that they were targeting higher end establishments.

He added: “I honestly believe it will provide good benefits for the town.

“Retailers will thank us for what we’re doing and so will members of the public because there will be a lot more facilities for them to use.

“The centre will have magnificent knock on effects for the town.”