WILTSHIRE Council says it will work with the parish council to endeavour to protect community access to Urchfont Manor estate when it sells it off later this year.

A stormy meeting at Urchfont village hall last Wednesday evening heard council cabinet member Lionel Grundy defend Wiltshire Council’s decision to close the adult education college in September and sell it off.

Dozens of former students and members of the local community wrote to Wilt-shire Council after the Gazette & Herald broke the news last week of their plans to close council offices at Browfort in Devizes and Bradley Road in Trowbridge as well as the 16th-century historic manor house.

About 100 villagers and students at the college attended an open session at Urchfont parish council’s full meeting last Wednesday evening. Former head teach-er and county education adviser Cairns Langlands, who lives in Urchfont, accused Wiltshire Council of botching the process, saying that any agreement to protect public access to Oakfrith Wood, the school playing field and the village cricket pitch, all of which are on the manor estate, would devalue the property when it is put up for sale.

He said: “Sixty objections to the sale, received in writing, were dismissed. This whole process has been a farce and democracy has gone to the wall.”

But Coun Grundy denied Mr Langlands’ view of the process. He admitted: “We had to make the decision when the public were not present because there was commercially confidential information that we had to consider. But all comments were taken into consideration.

“I can understand you’re upset at the sale of Urchfont Manor. We’re upset at having to do it, but the courses this year will make a loss of £120,000.

“That’s not my money, it’s yours and we can’t carry that kind of loss without making substantial cuts elsewhere.”

Mark Stone, Wiltshire Council’s transformation officer, told the meeting that every effort would be made to protect the local community’s access rights to the manor grounds.

He said that the Manor would be put on the market in the next three to four months but the council had already received a number of expressions of interest from potential purchasers since the council’s intentions were published.

He said: “We have been told by a specialist firm we will be employing to market it that it is unlikely we will struggle to find a buyer.”