College's £8m plans decided next month

AMBITIOUS proposals for an £8 million facelift for Suffolk's top agricultural college will be decided next month after councillors have visited the site.

AMBITIOUS proposals for an £8 million facelift for Suffolk's top agricultural college will be decided next month after councillors have visited the site.

Officers at Suffolk Coastal District Council are recommending all the members of the north area development control sub-committee visit Otley College before taking any views on the massive project.

They would visit on June 9 to see both the college and its grounds, assess the expansion plans and look at the local road network.

Planning officers described the project as a "major application" and said the aim was to deal with it as speedily as possible to help the college authorities.


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The project would see Otley College expand over the next five years and student numbers grow from 5,000 to 6,500.

The college currently has about 6,000 sq metres of teaching space and after the first phase this will be increased to 15,782 sq metres – including a new library and IT centre.

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For the first time it will take boarders, with a 75-bedroom residential block planned. New starter units will also be created for fledgling food businesses using the college's development facilities to increase production until they are ready to move to their own premises.

A "masterplan" seeking outline planning permission for the development has been submitted to Suffolk Coastal District Council, with the hope of the first phase of building work beginning in late autumn.

Plans also involve a community sports facility including football, rugby and cricket pitches and a pavilion, riding centre, and a new car park with a separate entrance and exit further along the B1078 towards Otley Bottom.

The longer term expansion will see the campus expanded to 20,000 sq metres by 2018.

College principal John Pearson has said that the project is an ambitious plan but the college wants to be something the people of Suffolk can be proud of.

"If the rural economy is to grow and develop it needs change and adapt but they need support from people they have confidence in," he said.

The college has consulted more than 200 organisations and businesses on its future role, backed by research commissioned from consultants KPMG with the support of the Learning and Skills Council for Suffolk (LSC).

Funding for the expansion will come from a range of sources, notably the LSC which is to contribute 35% to 50% of the cost of the new teaching facilities.

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