Rev Peter Cook, right, with petitioners Emily O’Brien, Martin Futter, Karen Nudds, Jenny Barker and Paul Chettleburgh at Docking Church. Picture: Paul Tibbs

A new bid has been launched in an attempt to save the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) college at Bircham Newton.

In November, CITB bosses announced plans to relocate more than 600 jobs from Bircham to Peterborough in order to become a ‘simpler, more streamlined organisation.’

Last month, the board announced a temporary reprieve, stating the company would remain at the site until next December.

However, CITB college chaplain the Reverend Peter Cook, is calling on the board to halt its plans and has launched a petition to present to chairman Peter Lauener and MP Sir Henry Bellingham.

Rev Cook said: “The continued existence of the CITB head office and the National Construction College functions are essential to the prosperity and viability of this area, as well as being key to the continued good provision of training to apprentices from the construction industry.”

Rev Cook said he was concerned about the impact of the relocation on the area. He said: “The college here is an essential service in the villages. It employs an awful lot of people in a very wide range of jobs, from cleaning and catering to office work, trainers and management.

“There are more than 600 jobs at the site and if it went it would be a huge blow to this area and the knock-on effects will be tremendous.”

Last year, the college was rated as an ‘outstanding apprenticeships provider’ by Ofsted and Rev Cook labelled the decision to relocate the facility as ‘short-sighted’.

Last week, the CITB released a business plan which revealed its staff numbers would be reduced from 1,370 to 484 by 2020.

Rev Cook said CITB staff were very worried about what was going to happen and he criticised the consultation process as “window dressing”.

There has been further criticism from union Unite which said the restructuring plans were “mired in confusion” and also claimed the organisation had failed to  properly consult over its “most controversial plans”.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Mark Robinson said: “Confusion currently reigns at the CITB. The organisation has a grand plan where it wants to get to but no idea how it is going to get there.

“The confusion, chaos and lack of communication is deeply disturbing and unsettling for our members, many of who face losing their jobs or having to uproot their lives in order to move to Peterborough.”

A CITB spokesperson said: “British Construction has been clear that CITB needs to change and soon. The status quo is no longer an option. Delivering CITB’s Vision 2020 is crucial to being the modern, agile training body that delivers the skills outcomes firms need, now and in the future.

“CITB values every colleague and where we made a mistake, we’ve apologised and put it right. CITB has extended its head office relocation collective consultation period to allow colleagues to fully engage with the process.

“We have set out the road map for our Vision 2020 programme and have already met key milestones, we will continue to update at appropriate stages in the process.”

Sign the petition in Bircham at the Social Club, the village stores, King’s Head Hotel and Bircham Windmill; in Docking at The Railway Inn, the Spar and Bayfield surgery; The King William IV pub in Sedgeford; the Duck Inn in Stanhoe and at churches in Bircham, Docking, Sedgeford, Stanhoe and Fring.