TALKS to potentially save a much-loved arts college in Malvern appear to have fallen through.

WCG, which owns Malvern Hills College, said negotiations with the Bransford Trust over plans to save the historic site have hit "gridlock".

This, they say, is because they cannot accept the offer put forward by the trust.

We have previously reported how WCG planned to cease operations at the college, which has existed in Malvern since the 1880s.

This, they said, was because it was "no longer financially viable".

Since then, a bid by the Bransford Trust attempted to save the college and keep it open.

Despite this, Peter Manford, chair of the WCG board of governors, said they could not accept the trust's bid.

He said: "We agreed several months ago to sell the site, at well below market price, to allow the Bransford Trust to try to operate it as an educational establishment.

"However, we obviously need reasonable protection against any future uplift in value, should the trust decide to sell the site in years to come.

"In the circumstances this is a standard request, which the Trust should be comfortable to accommodate if it has confidence in its business plan.

"It is, therefore, a major concern that the Trust remains unable to satisfy this requirement, particularly as this has been stated as an essential and non-negotiable part of our dealings from the outset.

"That requirement is part of the duty which we have as governors, to protect the interests of public funding.

"We are intent upon complying correctly with that duty as we are sure people would expect.

"Sadly the Trust has been unable to meet this requirement and has therefore ceased negotiations.

"We have now done everything we can reasonably do to facilitate a sale to the Bransford Trust and regret that in the end despite many months of intensive negotiation, an agreement could not be reached that we could sign off whilst satisfying our legal obligations."

The Education and Skill Funding Agency (ESFA) has confirmed that there is no functional need for a college providing 16-18 or adult Government-funded courses in the Malvern district. 

This was following the announcement from WCG of the college's closure in November 2020.

After news of the breakdown in talks, West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin again offered to mediate between the two parties.

She said: "I have kept in close touch with the Bransford Trust through this process and I am fully supportive of their efforts to offer what I consider to be a fair price to take the site over.

"It simply cannot be sensible that a publicly-funded educational establishment like Warwickshire College Group can be allowed to let an old college building fall in to ruin.

"I understand that there are simple sticking points that could easily be resolved with sensible negotiations but the WCG management have so far refused to come to the table.

"I have repeated my offer that an independent mediator should be engaged to allow this deal to move forward and allow WCG to exit from this situation without further damage to its reputation."