Orchard Hill College claim Kingston Council want to double its rent payments

Surrey Comet: Students from Orchard Hill College outside the Beaconsfield Centre Students from Orchard Hill College outside the Beaconsfield Centre

A college for people with disabilities has claimed its rent is being doubled by Kingston Council in return for being allowed to stay in its new base.

But the assertion has been dismissed by a top councillor as “nonsense”.

Orchard Hill College was set to vacate the Beaconsfield Centre in New Malden this summer, until Kingston Council found an alternative location for the adult education services that were due to move in.

But in an update posted on its website, the college said: “Councilors have agreed in principle that the college can stay at the Beaconsfield Centre, subject to agreement on fees.

“The college has gained expert valuation advice and is waiting for the Royal Borough of Kingston to approve the rental. They are currently asking for double.”

Chessington resident Jackie Mills, whose daughter Leanne is a student at the college, said: “I think it’s awful. It is either you pay double or you are out. I feel as if they want them out.

“I don’t know how much they were paying, but if they weren’t paying anything how could you double anything?”

Councillor David Ryder-Mills, lead member for schools and continuing education, said: “It is actually nonsense. At the moment, they are rent free until the end of the summer term.

“We are in negotiations with Orchard Hill to set a reasonable rent for any future occupation.”

He said the previous rent-free occupation had been subject to the college refurbishing the Beaconsfield Centre, but turning it into a permanent base meant paying rent would “only be fair”.

He admitted setting a rent price had been “a bit of a drawn-out process”, but hoped an agreement could be reached.

A spokeswoman from Orchard Hill College said: “We are currently in discussions with Kingston Council with regard to future financial arrangements for the college and the provision of services for learners from the borough.

“No decisions have yet been taken and we trust that there will be an acceptable conclusion for all parties.”

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