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Green light for £10m university

By Herald Express  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

PARTNERSHIP: From left, Andrew Postlethwaite, FSB, Pat Brown, Linden Homes, Stephen Criddle, South Devon College principal, Tammy Deakin, South West Water, Denis Parsons Centrax and Guy Pedrick, Teigbridge Council Torquil MacLeod TQTM20140409A-01_C

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WORK will start in June on a £10million new university technical college for Newton Abbot.

The project has reached an important milestone after planning permission was granted this week to transform the former Blackler's garage site in Kingsteignton Road.

Business and community leaders have welcomed the major step forward for the South Devon College scheme which will see a new college site built to cater for 600 students.

It is expected work will begin to clear the site in June with the main work starting in September subject to ministerial approval. Adele Dawson, South Devon College's UTC project champion, was thrilled planners voted in favour.

"This is another big milestone achieved for our UTC partnership," she said. "We would really like to thank the many employers and members of the community who urged Teignbridge Council to approve our application."

Teignbridge Council planning committee gave the green light to the project on Tuesday. The college facilities for students aged 14 to 19 will focus on engineering, water and the environment.

Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris, who has supported the campaign throughout, was pleased the build will come to fruition.

"I am delighted with the decision, which is the next stage in bringing a high quality and modern university technical college to Newton Abbot," she said.

"I would like to congratulate the many people who have been involved with this project for their hard work so far, although there is still more to do."

The news was welcomed cautiously by Newton Abbot mayor Cllr Louise Cooke, who said: "I'm so pleased it's coming to Newton Abbot, it's a wonderful thing. However, I do see problems with parking and I think it's a shame it wasn't developed at the original site in Bradley Lane."

"I'm also concerned for the safety of the students as the road is very busy and I don't think parking issues have been really considered."

The unique building design provides eight specialist engineering workshops, seven science laboratories as well as a technology and general teaching space. Four hub areas will be supported by project sponsors South West Water, Centrax, the Environment Agency and Galliford Try.

An external science terrace adjacent to lab space will allow for water collection, testing and monitoring to replicate the science used by South West Water and the Environment Agency.

The Department for Education funding for the scheme includes up to £1million for specialist engineering and science gear as well as £500,000 for ICT equipment.

The UTC, which is the first of its kind in the area, will open in September 2015.

It will recruit students from across the region including Teignbridge, Torbay, Exeter, Plymouth and the South Hams.

Dr Stephen Bird, operations director for South West Water, spoke in favour of the development at the planning meeting stating it would provide 'work ready pupils'.

"It's got excellent road and rail links for the catchment," he said.

Centrax director Tony Wiltshire also was supportive."It will enhance the site and with the potential to be a landmark building," he said.

At the planning meeting, objector Stuart Little said he didn't object to the 'concept' of the development but felt the site was 'unsuitable'.

Another objector Ray Bartlett, who lives opposite, was highly concerned there would be more congestion on the already busy road and also didn't like the design.

"It's like a concrete bunker," he said.

Cllr Carol Bunday said it wasn't the 'best place for the facility' and said she didn't see the point of spending millions on a development which doesn't have the space for future expansion. She was also worried about traffic congestion and didn't think it was the right place for the site.

Cllr Charlie Dennis disagreed and said he was 'impressed'.

"It may not be the best place it could be, but it's the best place available," he said.

Planning committee chairman Humphrey Clemens said: "The positives of the project outweigh the negatives tenfold."

Concerns were expressed about congestion and safety issues. However Cllr Alan Connett backed the build saying: "We have to seize the opportunity."

The committee recommended approval with 18 members voting, 17 were in favour and there was one abstention.

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