CITB 'considering West Norfolk site return' - claim
A leading industry body is looking at moving operations back to its site in West Norfolk - having spent years moving its headquarters from there, it has been claimed.
The news comes after the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) scrapped plans to sell off the National Construction College (NCC) at Bircham Newton earlier this year.
Board officials yesterday said they had “no plans” to move its headquarters back to Bircham from its present site in Peterborough.
But union leaders have called for staff who were moved from Bircham to be allowed to return to work there.
And a leading figure in the fight against the board’s plans says the Government should now set up an inquiry to examine the whole affair.
It’s nearly four years since the CITB first announced plans to move its headquarters from Bircham Newton to Peterborough.
Dozens of staff were moved between the two sites, while hundreds more were transferred to other employers.
But community leaders who fought the plan have told the Lynn News this week that workers are expecting an expansion of activity at the site over the coming months.
Local vicar, the Rev Peter Cook, yesterday said he understood senior bosses have visited the site as part of preparations for a move over the next year.
He acknowledged it would be “good news” for the area if more jobs do return to Bircham but said it would also show the “terrible waste” created by the CITB’s Vision 2020 plans which included the relocation from Bircham.
He added: “Vision 2020 has proved rather shortsighted.”
Meanwhile, the former North West Norfolk MP, Lord Bellingham, said a change of management was needed right across the organisation.
The board’s current chief executive, Sarah Beale, is due to leave her post in September and Lord Bellingham said both the then chairman and chief executive had quit when a similar relocation plan collapsed in the 1990s.
He added: “What we need is a complete reset, new people right across senior management. They need to be quite honest and admit they made a serious mistake, wasting a large amount of money.
“The Government minister should set up an inquiry, led by an outsider, to look at this.”
Hopes for the future of the Bircham site were raised when the CITB announced it was scrapping plans to sell the NCC in March.
A heads of terms agreement had previously been reached with the West Suffolk College for it to take over the site.
Mark Robinson, regional co-ordinating officer for the Unite union, which represents many of the workers that have been affected by the CITB’s plans, said they did not know whether the decision to retain Bircham would impact on the Peterborough head office site.
But he added: “The board has committed to remaining at Bircham as a result of its decision to retain the NCC.
“A number of employees did transfer from Bircham to Peterborough when it moved its head office function.
“We would hope that, wherever practicable, these colleagues would be able to move back to working at the NCC site when normal operations resume.”
A CITB spokesman said yesterday: “Currently CITB has no plans to relocate its head office from Peterborough back to Bircham Newton, which remains open as a training facility.”
At the time of its announcement that the Bircham site would not be sold, its chairman, Peter Lauener, said: “This decision gives employers and CITB colleagues confidence and clarity and enables us to plan for the future, having realised the core ambitions of reform.”
“We will of course keep these businesses under close review as we do for every aspect of our operation and this might lead in due course to alterations in our approach to NCC but we have no plans at present to return to market.”