Proposed net zero Northumberland College campus in Ashington recommended for planning consent

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Northumberland College proposals for new facilities in Ashington have been recommended for planning approval subject to set conditions being met.

The campus plans would see three new teaching buildings and sports facilities built on a 5.7 acre site in Wansbeck Business Park.

If approved, it would be among the first ‘GenZero’ further education sites in the UK, meaning it will meet a new low carbon design standard developed by the Department for Education and Innovate UK.

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Northumberland County Council planning officers have recommended that the scheme is given the green light by councillors at a Strategic Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 4.

Council planning officers have recommended that the scheme is given the green light by councillors. (Photo by Northumberland College)Council planning officers have recommended that the scheme is given the green light by councillors. (Photo by Northumberland College)
Council planning officers have recommended that the scheme is given the green light by councillors. (Photo by Northumberland College)

Officers’ report said: “The sustainability measures incorporated during the construction phase and use of the buildings upon completion will constitute a net zero scheme in terms of carbon emissions, whilst the educational benefits for Ashington and the wider area of Northumberland are clear through enhanced academic and technical opportunities.

“It can also be expected that the enhanced learning opportunities on site shall provide clear economic and employment gains into the future when students are leaving college and seeking full or part time jobs.”

The report continued: “Whilst the proposed use does not accord with the main employment uses designated for the site, there are clear economic, social, and environmental benefits that arise through the proposed scheme.”

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One neighbouring business and one neighbouring resident objected to the proposal, citing concerns with the development’s impact on parking and traffic in the area.

Officers’ said: “Subject to the submission of additional information ahead of the planning committee, highways development management consider the proposals will accord with relevant transport policies.”

Officers’ report also addressed the loss of biodiversity at the site as a result of the proposals, recommending that a “financial contribution for off-site ecological work” is secured by a planning condition. This is expected to come to £41,250.

The report said: “The [biodiversity] loss on site is regrettable. However, it is considered that the benefits of the proposed scheme outweigh the harm caused by the loss.”

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If councillors agree with officers’ recommendations, the buildings will largely be built and manufactured off site before being assembled in Ashington.

One of the campus’ proposed buildings will be an advanced manufacturing, engineering and construction skills centre, used for courses in a range of engineering disciplines including renewable technologies.

Another of the buildings is set to feature academic and technical facilities for disciplines such as health, education, and business. There will also be a bespoke centre for young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Catering and dining facilities, a learning and skills centre, a lecture theatre, career and welfare services, specialist labs, workshops, and immersive learning environments are also all included in the plans.

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New sports facilities at the campus are likely to be made available for community use thanks to an agreement between Sport England and the college, should the plans be approved.

The campus could support up to 3,075 learners, an increase from Northumberland College’s current Ashington campus capacity of 1,873 students, and the equivalent of 174 full time staff members.

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