SUPPORTERS of a historic North East college earmarked for closure are lobbying church leaders for a reprieve.
During the past two weeks, almost 300 people have backed an online petition calling for plans to shut Ushaw College, on the outskirts of Durham City, to be halted.
The 200-year old Roman Catholic college is home to St Cuthbert’s Seminary which has been training priests since its foundation more than 400 years ago in France.
Attempts to widen its income have failed, and with a large drop in the number of men training as priests there, the college’s board of trustees took the decision to shut it down in June.
At the time Archbishop Patrick Kelly, chair of trustees, said the proposal was one of the most difficult the trustees have had to make.
But the move has sparked outrage from members of the catholic and local communities who believe there has been a lack of consideration given to alternative ways of securing the college’s future. Campaigner Jeremy Boot said: “There are sound business cases for keeping open the seminary yet it seems that some are determined to close it no matter what.”
Fellow campaigner Alexander MacLeod added: “I am disappointed with the lack of consultation with the North of England Catholic population with regard to the closure of the illustrious Ushaw College and St Cuthbert’s Chapel.”
Campaigners also say that there will be the loss of more than 60 jobs in “an area where alternative employment is scarce”. They are now calling for a study on all possible options to enable the college to continue serving the North East and want the closure plans to be stalled until a consultation is carried out.
North West Durham MP Pat Glass is lending her support to the cause, calling on church leaders to reconsider and protect the region’s historic buildings and heritage.
In an Early Day Motion in Parliament which has been supported by eight other MPs, Mrs Glass writes: “This House further notes the importance of Ushaw College in the local community and the concerns that local people have at the closure announcement; and supports calls for this decision to be reconsidered.”
If the closure goes ahead as planned the college plus home of the North East regional office of the Catholic charity CAFOD and the Churches’ Regional Commission, will shut in June.
To view the petition, visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/ushaw Nobody was available for comment from the college’s trustees yesterday.