NEW college campuses near the town centres of Huntingdon and St Neots moved a step nearer reality this week when the £38million developments got the backing of district council. Huntingdonshire Regional College wants to re-build on part of the police play
NEW college campuses near the town centres of Huntingdon and St Neots moved a step nearer reality this week when the £38million developments got the backing of district council.
Huntingdonshire Regional College wants to re-build on part of the police playing field at Hinchingbrooke and at the former open-air swimming pool in Huntingdon Road, St Neots, and sell both existing sites for housing.
On Monday Huntingdonshire District Council's development control panel backed both moves, although the Huntingdon application will have to be approved by the full council and then the Government Office for the East of England - the land is designated in existing planning polices as open space.
The proposal also includes a multi-use games area, a football pitch and parking for 220 vehicles.
Huntingdon Town Council had objected on the grounds that the proposal would be an over-development of the area and that the road network was inadequate.
The Wildlife Trust was concerned about a nearby colony of great crested newts, which also delayed part of the footpath across Views Common from Stukeley Meadows to Hinchingbrooke.
But yesterday (Tuesday), college principal Anne Constantine was delighted. "This is a really fantastic opportunity for Huntingdon to have an up-to-date college in a sustainable location," she told The Hunts Post. "It's a rare opportunity that will make a huge difference.
"It has been a long haul, and this is a very important milestone. It is something that will be with us for 50 years."
The planners' decisions clear the way for detailed discussions with the Learning and Skills Council over funding for the projects and with the Cambridgeshire Police Authority and swimming pool trustees over transfer of ownership of the land.
"The LSC is broadly supportive, but it now has to be tested out in detail," Mrs Constantine said.
She insisted the move away from the present site in California Road, Oxmoor, was for the best, in spite of some local opposition.
"This is a very isolated site, and it's not where a college should be. People from elsewhere than Oxmoor choose to go to Cambridge or Bedford. So it's really important to have a site people can get to. And there's the sustainability issue. People will be able to get there by bus, train, walking or cycling."
The train journey between St Neots, her home town, and Huntingdon, a short walk from the new site, takes seven minutes.
If all goes to plan, detailed planning applications for the two sites will be submitted in the autumn, with work starting next year and the first students enrolling in 2011.
With the two existing sites now having outline planning permission for housing, the college is talking to HDC officials about agreements to provide affordable housing and public open space when they are developed. Between the two sites, there could be well over 200 new homes built.