KIRKLEES College has finally been given the green light to build new premises in Huddersfield.
The decision to fund the £85m project, one of only 12 granted across England, has also delighted Kirklees Council leaders as it is the final piece in the jigsaw for Huddersfield’s ambitious £175m waterfront project.
The relocation had been in doubt due to a cash crisis at the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the body funding further education colleges across the country.
But now the whole Waterfront project, located on the site of Sellers Engineering between Chapel Hill and Manchester Road, is back on track.
The eight-acre site will include new offices, flats, shops and open spaces.
College bosses hope to move from their ageing premises on New North Road to the purpose-built campus in September 2012.
And it is thought the college will be able to expand its enrolment to 20,000 students.
Chris Sadler, Principal of Kirklees College, said he was “relieved and delighted” the project had finally got the go-ahead.
He said: “It’s been a long time but we’ve worked closely with everybody concerned and we’re just absolutely delighted for ourselves, for the town and its residents.
“For students it means better facilities, better accommodation, more opportunities.
“There will be brand new facilities associated with student support in terms of learning resources and better classroom space, but also better social space for students, exercise areas, dance space, new restaurants, hairdressing – a whole range of things.”
Melanie Brooke, Vice-Principal Corporate Services at Kirklees College, confirmed the premises on New North Road would be sold to finance part of the project.
She added: “This really is wonderful news as we now have the go ahead to begin work on this exciting development which will give the people of Kirklees a fantastic place to learn and work.
“We’re due to open September 2012 but we will be ready by May or June of that year.
“We’ll do some initial work before Christmas and then properly start in the new year. The first brick should be laid in Spring next year.”
Leader of Kirklees Council, Clr Mehboob Khan, said the revamp was a key part of the long-term renaissance of Huddersfield and would give the area a much-needed boost.
He said: “It’s fantastic news for students, a brand spanking new campus.
“We’re very lucky, this is one of the few sites nationally that is going ahead – one of 12 out of 150 that applied.
“It’s taken many years to get to this stage. The last few months have been very frantic and nervous.
“We’ve had meetings with government ministers to try and lobby our case and unfortunately it’s been delayed due to the fiasco with capital funding at the LSC and the recession, but we’re extremely pleased it’s going ahead.
“We move on now to concentrate our focus on the next phases of the waterfront development and creating something here that rivals the best in our neighbouring cities, such as Clarence Dock in Leeds.
“It will give this area of Huddersfield a feel of vibrancy, a feel that Huddersfield is a place where you can make it.”
Ken Gillespie, the council’s director of regeneration, said there were a series of improvements planned for the junction at Castlegate to make it easier for the students to get across.
He said: “It’s not just the college though, it brings on the entire scheme.
“It facilitates the opening up of the canal, the walkway along the canal and the new public spaces.
“It takes Huddersfield’s public spaces to a new level.”
David Armitage, chairman of the scheme’s backer Ramsden and Colne Developments and managing director of Sellers Engineering, said he was pleased he could finally start planning his move.
He said: “From the point of view of the town it’s brilliant news that there’s finally something going to happen on this waterfront site that will kick start development – which is great because nothing else is happening in Huddersfield.”
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, said: “Everyone has pushed hard for this decision and it has been a magnificent team effort.
“A lot of work has been done by many people. This is the main regeneration project for Huddersfield and will make so much difference to the town.
“It could even end up being larger than originally envisaged as people can now plan ahead with certainty.”