College plans £5.5m revamp

thisisoxfordshire: Michael Chiyasa Michael Chiyasa

A COLLEGE planning a £5.5m revamp is driving forward with plans to create a £1.1m state-of-the-art engineering building.

Abingdon and Witney College wants to build the new motor vehicle education facility and refurbish its Abingdon campus throughout.

A planning application for an engineering facility at the Wootton Road site was submitted to Vale of White Horse District Council last week.

College principal Teresa Kelly said the building would allow it to offer more courses, take on an additional 130 students a year and help meet the demand for engineers in the area.

She said: “It is an area, particularly in the South and Vale, where there is a major shortage of applicants for engineering posts.”

The college has applied for about £2m of Government cash to help pay for extensive refurbishment. The work, which will see teaching and communal spaces modernised, could start in the summer and take about eight months to complete.

It comes after the college officially opened a £7.4m redevelopment of its Witney campus in July.

Mrs Kelly said: “We really do need to develop the Abingdon site now. It’s just a very tired building now. We want to bring it up to 21st century industry standard training facilities.”

The college is expecting to hear if its bid was successful by the end of the month.

New hair and beauty salons costing about £500,000 opened at the site last month. The motor vehicle engineering and computer design facility is being funded by cash from the Government’s Skills Funding Agency.

The council aims to make a decision on the bid by December 4.

Project manager Michael Chiyasa, who headed the Witney campus redevelopment, said: “It is a major milestone. We have spent a lot of time on the drawing board.”

He said if plans were approved, work could start in February next year. It is hoped the centre will be open to new students in September.

Mr Chiyasa said he did not anticipate any major objections to the plans, adding: “It doesn’t actually affect many people. We had a residents’ consultation evening and one of them had concerns and said they would object.

“The main concern was noise. The perception was there would be cars revving. But that’s not going to be what the building will be used for. It will be for computer aided design.”

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