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New £8.8m tech and skills campus gets the green light

Posted: 15 August 2023

A new £8.8m technology and skills centre is set to be built at West Nottinghamshire College’s Chesterfield Road campus in Mansfield.

Mansfield District Council’s planning committee met for a second time to discuss the ambitious proposals for the multi-million-pound education facility following a site visit yesterday afternoon (14 August) and gave it full planning permission.

It means the Future Tech Skills and Knowledge Exchange can now be built, creating a new teaching and innovation space at the town centre campus.

The centre aims to address high-value employment opportunities in priority sectors and support businesses to adopt new technologies.

Due to open in autumn 2024, the state-of-the-art building will deliver qualifications at level 3 and above, with a strong focus on innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

Incorporating facilities to support construction, engineering and digital technologies, the campus will offer local people the opportunity to meet future labour market needs, plug skills gaps, and, ultimately, help to create well-paid jobs in Mansfield and the wider district.

Andrew Cropley, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been given approval to start work on this flagship project for Mansfield.

“It is important for our local economy that businesses can embrace new technologies so they can become more competitive and have confidence there is a pipeline of skilled people to support them.

“Preparing students for rewarding careers in emerging industries and further strengthening our partnerships with employers will create the future-facing and well-paid jobs that are so crucial to the area’s prosperity.

“This building is another symbol of the potential that Mansfield now has, with a world-class university fully invested in our future.

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing the centre take shape over the next year and to working with partners to further develop our curriculum offer to ensure it delivers a lasting impact on our communities.”

Funding for the £8.86m facility was made possible thanks to an allocation of £4.3m from the council’s Towns Fund pot, £3.827m from the Education and Skills Funding Agency as part of the second phase of its Further Education Capital Transformation Fund, and £734,000 from the college and Nottingham Trent University.

Mansfield District Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration and growth, Councillor Stuart Richardson, said this go-ahead marked an important milestone in the Towns Fund delivery of projects.

He said: “I am thrilled to see the planning committee approve these proposals so we can kick-start the project and get a spade in the ground to deliver this skills hub for our next generation.

“We now have two of our Towns Fund projects progressing at pace, the Warsop Health Hub and now the skills hub. Although these processes take time, coupled with inflation and soaring construction costs, we are doing what we can to make these projects happen to give residents and future generations a Mansfield they can be proud of.

“This partnership with the college will see one of the district's biggest expansions in educational and skills provision for decades. It will also encourage new employers to start or come to Mansfield, knowing that high-level, industry-relevant skills are being developed here.”

The Future Tech Skills and Knowledge Exchange will provide 1,343 sq. m. of high-quality teaching space over two floors and be a focal delivery point for T Levels – new qualifications developed in collaboration with employers – being introduced by the college.

It will also offer opportunities for businesses to benefit from the technological expertise of the college and Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and their networks of industrial partnerships.

There will be space where students of the college and NTU can work collaboratively with employers on projects to support greater use of evolving technology. This will allow students to gain significant work experience with local businesses on technology-driven projects, giving them valuable insight into how companies work and supporting their progression to higher education or employment.

Meanwhile, businesses will gain access to support with product and process innovation, along with a ready-made future workforce, to help improve their competitiveness and efficiency.

In addition, the centre will host regular business engagement events and roadshows and will showcase specialist equipment to reach firms in the district and surrounding areas.

On-site works are expected to begin in the next few weeks. They will include demolishing the college’s former visual art and design building – once the Mansfield School of Art – which has not been widely used for education for almost a decade due to its poor condition. It temporarily served as office accommodation until five years ago.

Parts of the portico on the former School of Art building will be retained and re-positioned to create an entrance to the new centre to preserve its historical significance.

Councillors also put a condition on the application to include the remaining elements of the portico within the grounds.

The rear extension to the Ashfield House building will also be demolished. However, the original early nineteenth-century building will be retained and given prominence in front of the skills hub, forming a visual link between the area’s past and present.

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