Haymarket holds fire on HQ at Richmond College

Backing plans: Business Secretary Vince Cable

Backing plans: Business Secretary Vince Cable

First published in News Richmond and Twickenham Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Media giant Haymarket has backed out of plans to house its 1,100 staff on the developed Richmond College site.

For the past year, Richmond Council, the college, Haymarket, Harlequins and Clarendon School had been working to design the Richmond Education and Enterprise Campus (Reec).

As well as new college buildings, a secondary school and a purpose-built special needs school, it had been planned that Haymarket would move its global headquarters to the site.

But now the group plans to base just 20 staff on the campus, to provide creative and digital expertise as part of a "tech hub".

Haymarket is currently based in Teddington, with plans to build 250 homes on the site of the old Teddington Studios.

It is now looking to base the majority of its office staff "elsewhere in the borough".

The company's chief executive Kevin Costello said Haymarket's plans had "evolved" since they were first put forward last year.

He said: "This exciting new proposal will expand upon Haymarket's offering to campus students through the development of state-of-the-art facilities next to Richmond College, with a new media incubator providing further opportunities for talented young people from within the borough.

"The plans for the campus are still at a conceptual stage and our thinking has evolved."

The hub would include digital laboratories, photographic studios, a photographic archive and a digital editing suite and would be open to Haymarket Skills Academy students.

Leader of the council Lord True said: "This is very positive news.

"Few issues are as important to our borough as education and this new hub could provide young people and the wider community with direct access to experts, funding and indeed the state-of-the-art equipment they need to really immerse themselves in the digital and business world."

Construction on the site is set to begin in summer 2015.

Last month, the new secondary free school on the Richmond College site was given the go-ahead by the Government.

Community group Heatham Alliance, who previously questioned the council's transparency during consultation, welcomed the downsizing of the project.

A spokesman said: "Public-private partnerships are fraught with tensions and this education and enterprise scheme was no exception. "This is a sensible and welcome down-sizing of an over-ambitious scheme.

"It proved to be an obstacle to Haymarket’s plan to move out from Teddington Studios and it also put the provision of 750 secondary places in Twickenham in potential jeopardy unnecessarily."

Opposition spokesman for education Councillor Gareth Roberts criticised the council for courting "eye-catching headlines".

He said: "While there are many aspects of this scheme which are to be welcomed, it's regrettable that once again we have seen genuine distress and concern caused to residents over recent months by this administration blurting out half formed ideas in pursuit of eye-catching headlines.

"I hope that as they now progress with this revised scheme they will be more mindful of the views of local residents and work closely with them to find a scheme which is acceptable to everybody."

A council spokesman confirmed the altered plans would have no impact on timescales or funding of the scheme.

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