Sell-off looming for Earth Centre

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The future of Doncaster’s derelict Earth Centre should be decided next week – with one bidder threatening to take millions of pounds of investment elsewhere.

Doncaster Council’s cabinet will meet in private on Wednesday to discuss potential bids for the site alongside the River Don between Conisbrough and Denaby.

The Earth Centre was one of the Millennium Commission’s pet projects and benefited from huge public funding, but closed after just five years because of poor visitor numbers.

One of the bidders for the existing buildings and 50 acres of land, the Rapid Technology Transfer Group, wants to set up the UK’s first ‘multiversity’.

But if its Life Park bid fails bosses say the £12 million investment will probably go to Peterborough.

Bill Robertson, chairman of RTTG, says the Earth Centre site was selected because it provided an opportunity to establish a completely new approach to higher education in an area where there is an obvious commitment to creating a green economy.

“Working with universities from across the UK, businesses in our micro-university network are proving they are ready to invest in staff development which improves performance.

“Their staff work, learn, and gain the qualifications the business needs at a cost well below what normal university courses cost. This is putting more money and jobs into the economy when we need them.

“It makes sense to steer those benefits into the Denaby and Conisbrough area but, sadly, we can’t be sure councillors see things the same way,” said Mr Robertson.

“We have found excellent partners here in the Doncaster area and can create an exciting multiversity alongside the science, technology and engineering park but we need to know authorities in Doncaster share the Life Park vision.”

Mr Robertson said authorities and major businesses in Peterborough, also without its own university, will be “very quick to take advantage if Doncaster rejects the proposal to have the UK’s leading centre for sustainable technologies on its doorstep”.

A Doncaster Council spokesman said: “Following conclusion of the marketing of the site towards the end of last December, the future of this site is due to be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on February 16.” He could not comment further until after the meeting.