CONCERNS have been raised in Parliament about the proposed closure of a Roman Catholic college in the North-East.
Pat Glass, MP for northwest Durham, has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons, expressing fears about the uncertain future of Ushaw College, near Durham.
They are Parliamentary procedures which allow backbench MPs to publicise the views of individual MPs, draw attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrate the extent of support for a particular cause or point of view.
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Mrs Glass, who lives in Lanchester, said: “Ushaw College is a Roman Catholic college, home to St Cuthbert’s Seminary, which has been forming young men for the priesthood since its foundation and which holds a library that is priceless to the heritage of Catholicism in England and the North-East and consists of grade I and grade II-listed buildings.
“At a time when the Coalition Government’s cuts to the arts are hitting the North-East disproportionately, it is my opinion that we have a duty to protect our historic buildings and heritage here in the region.
“Ushaw College is greatly important to my constituents and the local community.”
Mrs Glass urged colleagues to note the importance of Ushaw College in the area, the concerns that local people have at the closure announcement and to support calls for the decision to be reconsidered.
The motion regarding Ushaw College has been supported by eight other MPs, including fellow regional representatives, Roberta Blackman Woods, Kevan Jones, Mary Glindon and Ian Mearns.
Priests have been trained at Ushaw College since 1808, when St Cuthbert’s Seminary relocated from revolutionary France.
In recent years, the college has begun hosting conferences and visits to cover its costs.
But, faced with declining numbers of men wanting to enter the priesthood, trustees said that, pending consultation with employees and the Charity Commission, the college could close at the end of the current academic year, next June.
Trustees of the 200-yearold Roman Catholic seminary began consultation on its closure earlier this year.
There are 26 seminarians studying at the college and the proposals put 62 jobs at risk.
Mrs Glass has also written to Archbishops and Bishops to ask them to reconsider their decision to close the college.
A spokesman for the Newcastle and Hexham Diocese said he felt it more appropriate for Ushaw College to comment on the matter.
The Northern Echo contacted the college and its communications company for a response to the motion by Mrs Glass but none was provided before the newpaper’s deadline.
Mrs Glass said: “The news about the proposed closure of Ushaw College comes on top of the recent threat to Auckland Castle and the Zurbaran paintings.”