Talks start in bid to retain West Norfolk training facility

CITB at Bircham Newton
CITB at Bircham Newton

Council chiefs have begun talks in a bid to save jobs and the training facility which are at risk at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) site at Bircham Newton.

It comes after the CITB announced plans to move its headquarters from Bircham Newton to Peterborough last month.

West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long said: “What we, as a council – those who are involved with business development and the chief executive – have instigated is recent dialogue with the CITB.

“We appreciate that as a business they have made their decision – they want to move some of it to the city.

“However, the training that goes on at CITB is the sort of thing that you can’t necessarily do there.”

Mr Long said being taught to use equipment like high cranes or dump trucks is not the sort of training that can be learned in a classroom.

“Bircham is an ideal place for that, there’s no nearby neighbours who are going to be upset by the operations at the construction site,” he added.

The council is exploring options with other higher education facilities from the East of England too, Mr Long added.

“They may well be well-placed to operate campus-based training at Bircham Newton. But we are currently getting those parties together,” he said.

“We are trying to see if we can save some of those jobs – these are specialised people who use this construction equipment.

“If they move to a sort of office complex in Peterborough, training still needs to go on where it can happen physically.

“At the moment it is a purpose-built site for all the equipment. It’ll be a great shame if we can’t get them to consider keeping the training there, even if it is given by another provider.

“Maybe by opening up the dialogue, it gives them the chance to consider the positives of the CITB site and perhaps it will mean other providers will get the benefit of that, even if it is other providers and not the CITB.

“The important thing is that people get trained.”

Earlier in the month, North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham raised the fight to keep the CITB headquarters at Bircham Newton in the House of Commons.

Prime minister Theresa May backed the campaign to keep the board’s base in West Norfolk in response to a question from Sir Henry on December 6.