Stalled digital hub still an asset, boss

The former Doncaster College site at Church View.
The former Doncaster College site at Church View.

THE boss of the trust behind a stalled £5 million regeneration project believes it will prove to be an asset to Doncaster - despite a major cash setback.

Doncaster Central Development Trust was rejected for a £3.5 million European grant for its plans to convert the former Doncaster College art school in Church View into a business and digital hub, because of claims rules were broken over contract tendering.

But trust chief executive Ben McCall thinks the project can be turned around.

Former directors have labelled the project a white elephant - at present there is only one useable room in the building, despite £5 million being spent so far on the project.

The building was bought for £2 million. Another £3 million has been spent on the first phase of gutting and redeveloping the interior.

Mr McCall said the trust had always disputed the suggestion procurement rules had been broken but, as a small voluntary organisation, did not feel it could take on the Government and the EU, and decided to look for alternative funding sources instead.

He said it was difficult to say when it could be completed because of the state of the economy but thought it could be for £1.5 million to £2.5 million.

He said: “Work with potential investors has been explored for the past year and continues. However, it is probably the worst time in a generation to secure investment in commercial property, but we are determined to do this.

“Long before we bought Church View - through the longest property boom in living memory – the building stood empty, which indicates the scale of the challenge. Every big project has risks and does not always go according to plan.

“Church View is a historic landmark building on the gateway to Doncaster. It has great potential and will, one day, again be an asset to the town. It has been prepared for future development in the midst of a commercial property slump and prolonged economic crisis that no-one predicted would last this long - so when conditions improve, investors will see it as a prime opportunity.”

Initial funding came from the Government’s New Deal for Communities project. DCDT took on the project after the NDC scheme ended, along with several others.