Hereford’S Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) has welcomed a new principal and chief executive.

Former Army colonel Geoff Draper is the first person to officially take on the role in almost a year, after Ian Pickford was brought in last January to improve performance following the previous principal’s departure.

The appointment is a much-needed show of confidence for RNC’s future after it suffered 17 redundancies during the past six months while Mr Pickford worked to reduce “management layers” and outgoing costs to the tune of £1.2 million.

Mr Pickford, whose time as interim principal was extended by six months to allow him to complete his task, said: “It has been hard work but it has been very rewarding, especially to be able to leave the college in a better place than it was 12 months ago.”

Mr Draper served for 30 years in the Army and has been involved in education and training throughout his career.

RNC chair of governors David Adams said: “His organisational skills will be a great asset as the college prepares to act as host venue for the World Blind Football Championships next year and as a paralympic training camp in 2012.”

Mr Draper, who is relocating to Herefordshire, said: “We are very much looking forward to working and living in such a beautiful part of the country.”