PEOPLE who use the Devizes branch of Wiltshire College are banding together in a bid to save it from closure.

Principal Amanda Burnside announced three weeks ago that classes are to stop in Devizes at the end of the autumn term and people will have to travel to Trowbridge, Chippenham and Lackham from the start of 2019.

But the decision has not gone down well with former students who believe travelling to the other colleges by public transport will be nearly impossible.

Gordon Munday, who gained a maths GCSE studying in Devizes, said: "The announced closure of Devizes college at Christmas this year leaves a gaping hole in the heart of the rural county of Wiltshire for adult education in part-time courses.

"For those reliant on public transport, evening classes will entail bus travel back home via Bath or nearby - arriving back in Devizes at half past midnight. Very expensive also for those without bus passes.

"This just doesn't help those trying to improve their education - especially for English & Maths qualifications - whilst fitting it around work and family commitments.

"The same also applies to students at Warminster college which is also slated for closure.

"These closures can only be seen as a massively retrograde step, depriving those who need educational qualifications most.

Jill Owen, who studied on a computer course in Devizes, was left in total disbelief by the decision and wants to try to fight to overturn it. She said: "The closure will prevent a lot of people learning and improving their skills, lives and job opportunities.

"There are no bus services from Chippenham or Trowbridge that would enable someone to attend an evening class from 7-9pm.

"For people who work till 6pm and who rely on buses it is impossible, and even those with their own transport would find it difficult to get to Chippenham or Trowbridge College for 7pm start as the traffic gridlock at that time."

The last bus back from Trowbridge to Devizes leaves at 6.40pm and from Chippenham it is 5.30pm.

She said that people with school age children who wanted to improve their basic English or maths could go to Devizes during school hours but would not have time to travel far.

She too pointed out the cost of public transport and the fact that the unemployed do not receive bus passes.

Ms Burnside said: "Regrettably , due to the long term decline in adult funding we can no longer maintain the centres in Devizes and Warminster.

“However, we have been identifying alternative venues for our Part Time offering and will be running courses out of the Nursteed Centre and Quaker Hall in Devizes and Warminster Park Community Centre and Bishopstrow Village Hall in Warminster, as well as across our campuses in Trowbridge, Chippenham, and Lackham. 

“We have a dedicated team of staff who are communicating fully with all of our students to minimise the impact of the centre closures and we do apologise to anyone who is affected. 

“We hope people will appreciate that most colleges in the country are facing financial challenges due to the general underfunding in the sector and that we are doing everything we can in the circumstances to retain our adult part time course offer.”