Major funding breakthrough for college

Wednesday, 26 November, 2008

A FUNDING boost of nearly £60million will make a Suffolk college one of the region's leading institutions, it was claimed last night.

All but three of the buildings at the West Suffolk College campus in Bury St Edmunds will be knocked down as part of a wholesale redevelopment scheme earmarked to begin next year.

Last night, it emerged the college can go ahead with the scheme, which has been in the planning stage for the past two years, after the Learning and Skills Council agreed to pay £58m of the £78m project cost.

The news has delighted students and staff.

David Howells, deputy principal at the college, said: 'We've finally had confirmation about the funding which has come through. It will be a three-year build.

'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.'

Work is expected to get under way early next year and be finished during 2012. The £20m shortfall between the project cost and Government funding will be made up from college funds and loans from Lloyds TSB.

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: 'It is quite simply excellent news for the college and for St Edmundsbury and, indeed, west Suffolk as a whole.

'We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the college for the benefit of all those it serves.'

Bury MP David Ruffley said: 'The college is a key part of higher education in East Anglia and I think this is a vote of confidence in the vision of the college which has worked so closely with University Campus Suffolk and the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

'This is a vote of confidence also for the way the college has looked outward - it is now more than just a west Suffolk institution, it has regional reach and it will grow from strength to strength in newer, bigger and better facilities.'

While building works are being carried out about 200 parking spaces will be lost. 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.