A major new college campus in Sunderland is to help regenerate the city centre and provide a boost for employers.
City of Sunderland College is to press ahead with ambitious plans for a state-of-the-art campus after ministers confirmed it is to receive a £10m grant, allowing the £29m development to go ahead.
A high-tech 11,500 square metre campus will be built on the land opposite Park Lane bus station in the city centre, to accommodate up to 2,000 students and over 120 staff.
The college was one of the big winners when the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced grants of £194m nationwide to improve further education colleges. Sunderland is to receive £10m which will be added to funding for the new development from the city council and college reserves.
The total size of the college, which is spread around five different sites, will be cut by about a fifth, although there will be no cut in the number of students served.
A new city centre campus will house vocational courses transferred from the existing Hylton campus, north of the River Wear.
Facilities will be built for teaching skills needed by businesses in the advanced engineering, construction and automotive sectors - in a bid to help students learn skills that will qualify them for jobs and help firms recruit the staff they need, boosting the economy in the long term.
A second phase of development will providing accommodation to teach skills in the hospitality and catering, tourism and hair and beauty trades.
These are sectors of the economy identified by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership as having the potential to grow.
The building will also incorporate hair, beauty and barbering facilities, a spa, a bakery and a restaurant all accessible to the public.
Bringing more students and staff into the city centre is also expected to provide a boost to local retailers.
Anne Isherwood, principal at Sunderland College said: “This investment is a huge boost for Sunderland and especially the city centre. The campus will provide high class facilities for vocational learners across the region and will give us a flagship site that will strengthen our offer to students and make us more aligned to the needs of local businesses.”
Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council said: “The continued development of the city centre is absolutely crucial to the future of Sunderland.”
He added: “To have a flagship campus on this site will be a major boost for the city centre and its economy. It’s also ideal for the staff and students who will be based there with its excellent transport links and city centre location.”
And Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: “I am delighted that we are continuing our commitment to improving our colleges.”
The plans will be on show at a public consultation event on the April2 from 2pm to 7pm at the Civic Centre, Burdon Road, Sunderland.