Sat, 24 Aug 2019
PLANS for a new multi-million-pound university centre in Newbury have been given the go-ahead.
University Centre Newbury will be built in the grounds of Newbury College and provide degrees and other higher-level qualifications in digital technology, business and finance, engineering, health and social care and construction.
The centre will be funded through a £1.75m grant from the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, a £3.5m loan from West Berkshire Council, other grants and money from the college itself.
College principal Iain Wolloff said: “We are delighted at the fantastic progress with establishing the centre and look forward to welcoming the first UCN students in September 2020 to study in the dedicated space within the existing college facilities, before moving into the exciting new building.
“We have been amazed at the enormous support for the centre from employers and organisations throughout the community and will launch a range of new degrees and other HE courses as planned.”
The college said that the original timescales for the completion of the building have been extended to focus on the development of the state-of-the-art digital facilities and achieving the zero-carbon standard.
It added that: “Once complete, the centre will be the first public building in West Berkshire to meet the sustainable target.”
However, approving the plans, West Berkshire Council said that although the centre would be BREEAM excellent compliant, it would fail to achieve the zero-carbon target.
Officers said that while it was “unfortunate that more work was not put in to meeting a zero-carbon standard, the standard of carbon reduction proposed to be achieved is not inconsiderable”.
And, combined with the “significant associated community benefits”, the council decided it would not be practical to delay or refuse the application for this reason.
Instead, it has recommended conditions be imposed which seek carbon reduction compliance.
The council said it was satisfied that the centre and works would not have an undue level of impact on traffic in the surrounding area, subject to administration of an updated travel plan for the college site.
It added that a small surplus of parking would be provided, which could cause concern, but claimed it was not sufficient to refuse the application.
The council agreed to give the college a £3.5m loan to plug a timing gap between the centre’s completion and the sale of a parcel of land to fund its construction.
The £1.75m grant from the LEP is dependent on the building being open to students in September 2020.
However, a piece of land needed to help fund the centre is not expected to secure planning permission until 2021 at the earliest.
The estimated value of this land without planning permission is in the region of only £480,000, but with permission, it is reportedly worth in excess of £3.5m.
The chairman of Newbury College Corporation, Geoff Knappett, said: “The enthusiasm for the university centre has been overwhelming and I am thrilled at both the approval of the fantastic new building and the plans for the university centre project to get under way in specialist accommodation.
“I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard in the college, in our university partners and across West Berkshire, to turn the long-held dream of a university centre into a reality.”