College overhaul plans set to be backed

MULTIMILLION pound plans to redevelop a Suffolk college are set to be given the green light when they go before planners next week.

Laurence Cawley

MULTIMILLION pound plans to redevelop a Suffolk college are set to be given the green light when they go before planners next week.

West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds recently learned it had won nearly £60million in funding from the Learning and Skills Council towards a wholesale redevelopment of the site.

The college has now submitted plans for new teaching facilities at the site and St Edmundsbury Borough Council will decide whether to approve the scheme next Thursday.


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Officers at the council have recommended the council's development control committee approve the scheme.

College bosses hope to begin the £78million redevelopment project next year with completion of works anticipated in 2012.

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They claim the work is needed because some of the buildings there are 50 or 60 years old.

When he learned the college had the money for the three-year building project, David Howells, deputy principal at the college, said:

“It is a fantastic opportunity. We've been working on this for two years and all of a sudden we can go ahead with it.

“I think it will be really good - some of the buildings here are 50 or 60 years old. This will be really good for our students and it will be really good for the town.

“As we've grown over the years we have had to shoe-horn things in, it has become very restrictive. It will be much better to work in.”

The £20m shortfall between the project cost and Government funding will be made up from college funds and loans from Lloyds TSB.

In his report to the council, development control officer Ben Woolnough said the proposals were in line with the college's overall masterplan.

“The scheme represents a significant investment in the development of educational facilities in Bury and the area.”

He has called on councillors to approve the scheme - but only once a deal has been struck between the college and the council for some kind of improvements in the area which would benefit the wide community.

If the council approves the scheme, about 200 parking spaces will be lost while building work is underway. The college will be encouraging its staff who live nearby to either walk or catch a bus into work each morning and discussions are under way between the college and St Edmundsbury Borough Council about using parking spaces at the multi-storey in Parkway.

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