College reveals plans for new £10m teaching block in Witney

Herald Series: How the proposed new college building would look How the proposed new college building would look

STUDENTS in Witney could soon benefit from a £10m redevelopment of their campus.

Abingdon & Witney College has revealed it will submit a planning application this week for a new teaching block at its Welch Way site.

The building would add 18 new classrooms, six computer suites and a construction workshop to the college, replacing a number of temporary buildings.

Project leader Michael Chiyasa said the work would involve knocking down the former Witney Magistrates’ Court building, provided permission was granted by West Oxfordshire District Council.

He said: “It’s still at very early stages, but we’re going to submit the planning application this week.

“As part of that, we’re doing a public consultation. The plan is to knock down the magistrates’ building, which we have been using temporarily. It’s in a conservation area and will be the biggest part of the project.”

The college’s initial redevelopment plans were halted in 2009 when the Learning and Skills Council ran out of money and was unable to fund a £28m scheme.

Plans were then revised, with vice-principal Di Batchelor saying in 2012: “One project at a time.”

That year £7.4m was spent on construction of one new building and the modernisation of two others.

That project provided TV and radio studios, editing suites, beauty and hairdressing salons, art and design studios, science labs, a library and IT facilities.

Town councillor Brenda Churchill said the latest plans would make the college “one of the best around”.

She said: “It’s good for the town and a good step forward for the college. That site has been earmarked for an upgrade for some time and it will make that part of Welch Way look much better.”

The college has two other campuses in West Oxfordshire, at Common Leys Farm, near Hailey, where rural and equestrian courses are taught, and the Avenue One construction training centre, off Station Lane, Witney.

In the Government’s 2013 Framework for Excellence results the college was ranked first in Oxfordshire, with the highest percentage of students getting jobs or continuing education after completing their course.

Barry Norton, the leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Although we have yet to see details of the planning application, this is wonderful news and we wish the college well in its ventures.”

Of the total estimated cost, £8.7m will come from the Skills Funding Agency, funded by the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

If planning permission is granted, the building could be ready for use by September next year.

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