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30th June 2011

New college to help raise skills and aspirations of our young people

The Government has revealed major plans to make better use of public land which could result in a new multi-million pound town centre college in Basildon becoming a reality.

As part of the Government announcement, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) have published a national land strategy, which confirms a number of areas, including the Nethermayne site (currently home to the South Essex College of Further and Higher Education's Basildon Campus) earmarked to be developed quickly with the help of Government funding.

The receipts gained from the development of the Nethermayne site would help fund the relocation of South Essex College, with the development potentially providing much needed housing and community facilities for the borough.  A new college would also be expected to help raise the further education results in the area.

The Nethermayne site (previously called Dry Street) is currently listed in planning policy as a Site of Special Reserve, which means it is reserved for long term housing need.  This announcement means that the land would be master planned jointly by the partners and landowners of the site; Basildon Borough Council, the HCA and South Essex College.

Cllr Tony Ball, Leader of the Council, says:  "Although the site is listed as a site of special reserve, we have seen at Barn Hall in Wickford that these sites can be developed and the Council would rather be involved from the outset so that we can ensure that the money is reinvested in Basildon, a high quality development is achieved, and we get the best outcome for the people of Basildon."

"Ideally this would be dealt with through the LDF process, but this funding will help to master plan the area alongside the LDF, and I welcome the fact that this will give the Council the chance to be involved in the future of the Nethermyane site."

The new college would be a partnership project with South Essex College working with other key educational providers in the town: Seevic College's New Campus Basildon (NCB) and Prospects Learning Foundation.  It also has the support of Essex County Council and the Basildon Business Group.

Cllr Stephen Horgan, deputy leader of the Council, says:  "Young people in Basildon deserve the best education, and education leads to better jobs and better life chances. A town centre college would transform the learning experience of Basildon's young people and will allow the public sector to drive up standards and levels of educational achievement, and just as importantly, aspiration levels.   

"The provision of a town centre college has the full support of the Council and is the top priority in the areas Local Investment Plan agreed in partnership with  the HCA"

"Increasingly qualified residents of Basildon would create high quality workers for the companies that are investing in the borough, and will help to attract further investment.  A new college campus in the town centre will provide better access and will also complement our ambitious town centre regeneration, offering a vibrant and dynamic community and learning space to our exciting plans.  You only have to look at the success of South Essex College's Southend Campus, a campus that historically many students from Basildon have attended, due to the first class facilities." 

"We also need to provide more aspirational housing as more investment and employment comes into the area, and the Nethermayne site offers the HCA an opportunity to do that in partnership with the Council.  There is also the potential to create employment and investment through a science park development."

Part of the HCA's investment and enabling role is to identify where it can help a local authority meet its housing needs through disposal of its land. 

Naisha Polaine, Head of Area for the HCA said: "This is great news.  This is about bringing together these public sector land ownerships that are next to each other to make the best use for local people.   Together, and as partners, we put forward funding applications for these sites as they could be brought forward quickly or ‘accelerated' as one site under our national land strategy to meet a variety of local needs. 

"All partners will work together to commission a master plan for a mixed use development for the entire site which will include housing, employment and community space."

Jan Hodges, Principal and Chief Executive of South Essex College, said: "We've already delivered a successful and vibrant College in a town centre location in Southend, which has created huge benefits for students of all ages, as well as many local businesses, both large and small, with the strength of the ‘student pound' and money that staff and visitors bring into the town."

"The brand new, purpose built building is expected to cost in the region of £25 million, funded through the sale of land by the College and the HCA and private assets, and is an exciting prospect in Basildon for all the partners involved, at a time when the town is undergoing huge change and regeneration.

"The new Campus and discussions about how best to realise this exciting vision for Basildon are a key part of the strategic options review between ourselves and Seevic College which is currently underway. This project is about what's best for Basildon and working together we believe we can deliver that vision. If plans are successful, it is hoped building of the college would start in 2014 and see its first influx of students in 2015-16."

Sarah Wright, Seevic College Principal, added: "I know that staff and governors of Seevic College will join me in believing that this exciting development will help us to realise our longstanding ambitions of working in partnership to provide the real breadth of first class learning opportunities that Basildon communities and individuals deserve and will play a key role in the regeneration of Basildon."

Neil Bates, Group Chief Executive, from Prospects Learning Foundation, commented: "Prospects College is delighted to be working in partnership with South Essex College and Seevic to ensure that Basildon residents have access to the very best further education and skills training including apprenticeships. Today's announcement provides an exciting opportunity to build on the already excellent provision in the borough."

All details of the master plan are yet to be agreed and will be subject to public consultation and planning approval.