College lifeline depends on planning bid

Up to £17m could be made available to redevelop a Norfolk college if it can get planning permission to build homes on part of its campus.The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has agreed to provide the money to redevelop the National Construction College's campus at Bircham Newton, near Fakenham.

Up to £17m could be made available to redevelop a Norfolk college if it can get planning permission to build homes on part of its campus.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has agreed to provide the money to redevelop the National Construction College's campus at Bircham Newton, near Fakenham.

Skills Minister David Lammy said: “We are amidst the busiest building programme in the UK since the war so I am extremely pleased that we have been able to confirm this support for a college that makes such a vital contribution to the construction industry. “In today's age of global competition, investing in the skills of new entrants and those already in the workforce has never been more important.”

But the support is conditional on the college putting up £4.3m. And it needs to get the go ahead to build 24 houses to clinch its side of the finance.

West Norfolk council has already turned down an application to build 250 houses on the site. The decision was appealed and went before a public enquiry, which left the council with a bill of more than £150,000.

Councillors meet to discuss the latest application next month. The college says the application has seen broad support from the local community and MP Henry Bellingham has given the plans his endorsement.

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Colin Wood, chief executive of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), said: “This year alone, the industry will see the start of 13,000 projects worth £160bn and the industry remains extremely buoyant, so a steady supply of skilled people is an absolute necessity.

“The National Construction College has been an indispensable industry resource for over 40 years, so today's news is of great importance, not only for the thousands of trainees that come through its doors each year, but for the industry and its ability to deliver essential construction programmes well into the future.”

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