CONTRACTS for the sale of The Wilderness Centre in the Forest of Dean will be exchanged within the next few days and Gloucestershire schools will once again be able to use it.

The sale of the Mitcheldean site has been a long and complicated process, with negotiations having taken over three years to complete.

The council tried to work with the Friends of the Wilderness Centre to allow them to buy the site but despite financial contributions and support to develop their bid, these negotiations were not successful.

Now, a deal is about to be signed with a new buyer from Cambridgeshire and contracts are due to be exchanged early next week.

The new buyer, who does not wish to be named at this stage, has also confirmed that they will use the centre as an educational hub that can be used by local schools in Gloucestershire as well as schools out of county.

Both the council and the buyer are keen for the centre to be put to good use as soon as possible.

Cllr Ray Theodoulou, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and change at Gloucestershire County Council said: “We’re extremely pleased that the sale of the Wilderness Centre is coming to an end. We’re even more pleased that it will still be used to teach young people important and valuable environmental information.

“It was important to us, especially as we look to our future finances, that we got the best deal possible for the sale of the building, and we feel confident that we have. The money that we will receive for the centre will be injected in to front line services such as protecting vulnerable adults and children in Gloucestershire.”

Once contracts are exchanged a period of negotiation will take place where the detail of the handover will be determined. The amount made through the sale will be confirmed at the end of this process as the figure is still under negotiation.

Following the launch of Meeting the Challenge in 2010, which saw the council make savings of almost £114million by reducing staff and debt, the sale of The Wilderness Centre is part of the councils second Meeting the Challenge project, which aims to make savings of around £75million over the next three years.

Speaking about the purchase, the buyer said: “We’re really excited about the purchase of the Wilderness Centre. We’re looking forward to bringing it back to life and giving young people the opportunity to learn about nature and enjoy a range of outdoor educational activities.

“We understand how precious this building is to local people in Gloucestershire and want to reassure them that we intend to work with local schools, academies and colleges so children across the whole of the country can enjoy the experience.”