Chippenham is set to get a brand new £21.5 million college campus in just two years time.
The 9,100 sq metre, three storey building will be built on land between the existing Wiltshire College buildings on Cocklebury Road, which will be demolished and about one hectare of the land will be sold off.
The majority of money is coming from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) with some from the disposal of land. The original project in 2008 reached a similar stage before the SFA’s predecessor, the Learning and Skills Council, ran out of money.
Ben Allen, vice principal business development, said while some parts were currently in a tired state, the project would provide “world-class facilities, industry standard workshops together with realistic working environments”.
He said: “If you’re going to knock down part of your house you don’t decorate, so it is long overdue.”
The current campus dates back to 1899 when the secondary and technical school was built.
Mr Allen said: “It is a real coup to get this funding. The new campus is going to transform the college and the area as well. New housing projects will increase population in the town so there will be a material need.
“The plans for this project have the full support of Wiltshire Council and the local economic partnership and Chippenham Vision.”
The new campus will include a 100 seater conference room, learning resource centre, sports science lab, music, media and art studios, hair and beauty salons that promise an “authentic salon experience”, a sensory room for learners with disabilities, and workshops for construction, engineering and motor vehicles.
It has been designed with future needs in mind with some local employers involved in the design, for example what kit is needed for the engineering course, said to be particularly popular this year.
Mr Allen said existing buildings would stay fully open during building works and the students would simply move into the new build once it was ready, in September 2015.
They anticipate an extra 250 to 300 students at the campus. Some extra teaching staff will be required, though it will also mean “slightly bigger class sizes”.
There are no plans to increase the current 234 parking spaces, which are believed will be ample. Mr Allen said: “Most of our students come from Chippenham and walk in. Most can’t afford cars these days. It is on a bus route and there will be provision for car sharing and bikes.”
The playing field will be unaffected.
Rob Perks, chief executive of the Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce, said: “We don’t have a university and are really short on higher education facilities in Wiltshire, so something to boost that will be very welcome. This is positive for the students and also for the businesses who need to get skilled workers.”
As well as vocational courses, apprenticeships and resettlement courses for armed forces personnel, the campus offers university level courses in business, computing, creative digital media, criminal justice, engineering and, new this year, sport.
Di Dale, principal and chief executive of Wiltshire College, said: “These are very exciting times for our learners. The Chippenham project represents the next stage in the transformation of our facilities across the county. We have already delivered a state-of-the-art learning resource centre in our Trowbridge campus, and work is underway on the new construction skills centre there, due to open next September.”
A planning application is due to be submitted next month and will be displayed throughout November in reception at the Chippenham campus. Wiltshire College hopes to start construction work in April 2014 and the project will be put out to tender.