Go ahead for �78m college project

COLLEGE bosses last night told of their joy at learning a multimillion pound redevelopment project had won the green light from planners.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.

Laurence Cawley

COLLEGE bosses last night told of their joy at learning a multimillion pound redevelopment project had won the green light from planners.

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.

Yesterday St Edmundsbury Borough Council's development control committee approved the college's plans.

College bosses hope to begin the �78million redevelopment project later this year once funding from the Learning and Skills Council is handed over.

Concerns were raised about the loss of about 200 car parking spaces while work is carried out, but the higher education college plans to discuss this issue with planning officers before building begins.

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The scheme is expected to be completed in 2012.

The college, which has about 20,000 students enrolled at any one time, claims many of its buildings, which are 50 or 60 years old, no longer meet the needs of students or staff.

David Howells, deputy principal at the college, said: “We've had the good news and are very delighted that members of the committee have approved the recommendation made to them by the planning officers.

“There are quite a few conditions attached - but all of them we were expecting. Their biggest concern was about parking and we will be talking to planning officers about that.”

He said funding from the Learning and Skills Council had been approved in principle but the college now had to provide details of the planning permission to get the money.

“We are hoping that in a very short amount of time we will be able to get on with the building work,” said Mr Howells.

The �20m shortfall between the project cost and the Learning and Skills Council funding will be made up from college funds and loans from Lloyds TSB.

In order to alleviate the impact of the loss of parking spaces, 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 the council about using parking spaces at the multi-storey in Parkway.