Exeter College plans £8.5million technology centre on edge of city

Plans have been unveiled for a world-class centre for engineering, aerospace and automotive training on the edge of the city.

Exeter College has applied for planning permission to build an £8.5 million technology centre just off the Monkerton link road.

It is hoped the facility – featuring workshops, laboratories and teaching spaces for around 300 students – will be ready to open by September next year.

Business leaders say the scheme will help secure Exeter’s future prosperity by ensuring a supply of skilled workers.

The centre will be a base for teaching students ranging from 14 to 16-year-olds through to those on university-level courses, as well as providing training for local employers. The college’s expanding technology faculty is currently housed in separate facilities across the city. Deputy principal Rebecca King said: “It is essential we continue to invest in training for these essential and popular industries despite the current gloom about the economy. We have seen an increase in the demand for industry-standard training from young people as well as employees and employers who are keen to improve their skills and keep ahead of the global technological advances.

“We are excited about creating this purpose-built centre of excellence for our long-standing automotive and engineering provision as well as our new aerospace activity, which has grown rapidly through our partnership with Flybe.”

She added: “The location is perfect for local, county and regional interest since it already has excellent transport links with new public transport links planned, and is sited close to Exeter’s new Science Park as well as the new M5 junction developments.”

The 3.16 acre site at Cumberland Way has been earmarked for education and training within the Monkerton and Hill Barton masterplan, which aims to build a “new sustainable community on the eastern edge of Exeter”. The plan was commissioned jointly by Exeter and Devon councils, the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point team and landowner representatives in 2009. The planned technology centre will also house an MOT testing bay, an IT suite, a motor vehicle and motorbike diagnostic testing lab and a three-storey learning and IT centre.

Welcoming the plans, Derek Phillips, vice-president of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, said: “This fits in very well with the Flybe academy so we will have two state-of-the-art training facilities for school and college leavers to help produce the skilled workforce we all believe is necessary for future prosperity as we move out of the recession.”

Ian Fitzpatrick, the college’s head of engineering, aerospace and automotive studies, said: “Our two automotive centres in Marsh Barton will benefit from being consolidated and will maintain their links with the motor franchises that are such a focus of Exeter’s industrial estates, while our engineering and aerospace training will move from their city centre sites.

“Since we are able to expand into a purpose-built site there will be no disruption to our students’ and trainees’ progress while we build.”

Once the new centre opens, one of the college’s bases on Marsh Barton will be sold and the lease will not be renewed on the other. Its construction training centre on the Sowton Industrial Estate will be unaffected.

Principal Richard Atkins added: “Due to our outstanding student success rates and prudent financial management, Exeter College is one of the very few in the country that is facing the current economic gloom with cautious optimism.

“We certainly have the confidence to continue to invest in providing modern industry-standard training facilities, particularly in those sectors which have been identified as local and national priorities.”

King Sturge’s project management and planning team and Strides Treglown Architects have been appointed to deliver the £8.5 million project.

The development is being funded by Exeter College using its reserves and new borrowings. It has agreed to buy the site from Devon County Council if planning permission is granted.

No date has yet been set for Exeter City Council’s planning committee to determine the application.

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April 5, 2011



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