Plans to open new Haywards Heath sixth-form take step forward

The former Central Sussex College campus, in Haywards Heath
The former Central Sussex College campus, in Haywards Heath

Plans to open a new sixth-form college in Haywards Heath have taken a significant step forward after the announcement a college group has been selected to take over the site.

The former Central Sussex College campus in Harlands Road closed in 2017 after the college became overwhelmed with debts.

After much outcry the site was purchased by the Government and it was agreed ministers would look at bringing the site back into use. For more see our previous story: Government buys Haywards Heath college campus for ‘education use’

More than 20 organisations applied to take over and West Sussex County Council has announced today (December 19) the Chichester College Group has been selected as its preferred choice to run the site.

The council said the group, which runs multiple education facilities across West Sussex including Chichester College, will now be put forward to the Treasury to be considered to run the site from 2020.

Sixth-form college in Haywards Heath could open as early as 2020

Councillor Garry Wall, Leader of Mid Sussex, said: “I am pleased that the selection process was so competitive and there was such enthusiasm from providers to run a first-class college in Haywards Heath.

“This council has worked very hard to make sure a college is re-opened on the site as it is much-needed by the growing population of Mid Sussex. I look forward to the Chichester College Group working closely with us, local communities and employers to tailor a wide-ranging curriculum to suit our young people.”

Central Sussex College closed both its Haywards Heath and East Grinstead campuses in 2017 after finding itself in £25m worth of debt.

West Sussex County Council and Mid Sussex District Council said: “In August 2017, Central Sussex College dissolved. The campus in Crawley was acquired by Chichester College Group and renamed ‘Crawley College.’ The decision to close the campus at Haywards Heath was taken in 2016 by the leadership team at the former Central Sussex College and prior to their acquisition - as such Chichester College Group had no say or involvement in the decision.”

Following the closures the county council along with Mid Sussex District Council, Coast to Capital LEP, the University of Sussex and Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames MP began lobbying the government to bring the Haywards Heath site back into educational use.

In September, Anne Milton MP, the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, agreed to look at bringing the site back into use.

Richard Burrett, Deputy Leader of West Sussex County Council and Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “Chichester College Group has an excellent track record of delivering outstanding education to thousands of students across West Sussex and edged out a number of other very credible, local providers who also submitted bids.

“We are keen to assist as a partner in this exciting project as it moves a step closer to becoming a reality.”

Shelagh Legrave, CCG Chief Executive, said: “Chichester College Group is very pleased to have been selected as the preferred provider to re-open the college in Haywards Heath.

“We are excited about the opportunity to deliver post-16 education for the learners of Mid Sussex and are committed to providing the highest quality skills to meet the needs of local people and businesses. We look forward to working closely with West Sussex County Council, Mid Sussex District Council and key stakeholders to finalise our proposition and timeline to enable an opening in September 2020.”

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Sir Nicholas: “I am absolutely delighted that we are making some real progress on this major and vital project and with the selection of the Chichester College Group (CCG), we are now in a position to make substantial moves forward.

“This is a great result for Mid Sussex and with thanks to Minister Anne Milton MP at the Department for Education and to the superb work by officers at Mid Sussex District Council.”