Industry figures demand answers about handling of Pershore

Horticulture industry leaders call for greater clarity on business case for key proposals.

The industry is demanding answers as a consultation to merge Pershore College ended this week. HTA director general David Gwyther demanded to know “what the heck is going on at Pershore” as the industry united against the proposed merger. Leading MPs, Lantra, growers, college governors and the NFU have all attacked the Learning & Skills Council’s (LSC’s) handling of the proposal. Gwyther has written to education minister Alan Johnson: “The LSC appears to be moving towards fait accompli in closing the college. This is contrary to the needs of the industry, which the college and the LSC are supposed to serve. “The LSC is hurtling down this road without putting the facts into the public domain. They’re supposed to be transparent.” Local growers said they have been inadequately consulted, and Gwyther complained the one-month consultation was short of the Government’s three-month guidelines. Lantra chief executive Peter Martin said: “I’ve written to the LSC to say I’m not convinced by the proposal. The consultation document is less than compelling in making a case for a merger. There’s no business case made. We want to ensure the reputation of Pershore is maintained and the college and site is protected, none of which is covered in the proposals. It’s a very disappointing document.” Local MPs Peter Luff and Sir Michael Spicer have vehemently attacked the plans. NFU regional director David Collier said it wants governors of existing institutions to be on the board in the case of a merger, adding: “There is concern that Pershore’s land will be sold off. It might mean the end of horticultural education in Worcestershire.” LSC area director Sharon Gray said its and the college’s priority was “stability and viability” at Pershore and it was “committed to maintaining the specialist nature of the provision at Pershore”.

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