Green Light for £40 Million Rebuild

Weather-beaten sheds will make way for an iconic new college building in Barrow.

Furness College has been given the green light from the Learning and Skills Centre to plough on with its ambitious campus transformation, costing in excess of £40m. The Channelside site is to get a radical facelift with a four-storey new build after being just one of 12 college projects in the country to be selected for LSC cash. There will also be a revamp of the college’s current main building, the Learning Resource Centre, which went up in 2000, and the creation of a much needed Multi Use Sports Area.

The LSC is contributing just under £32m to the project, and the University of Cumbria and the North West Development Agency will put in £3.5m. The university says the campus will be a partnership site as the institution builds its presence in Barrow.

The first group of metal units are due to be demolished in January so building work can start with main contractor Eric Wright Ltd. The landmark new building is contemporary in its design and mixes traditional and modern materials. The rectangular building, designed by Broadway Malyan; features two interlinked curved roof structures. There is natural copper on the roof and copper cladding on the sides of the top floors to protect the building from the elements and to give a warm feel. Polycarbonate translucent panels will create light walls with the natural light.

Graham Hodgson, Furness College’s Assistant Principle, Capital Projects, said: “I don’t think anyone has built one like this. It will be a major focal point for the town as it is a modern and unique building. The whole design has been based on a quality structure that will be able to stand up to the elements of the locality. We must be 20 to 30 metres away from the sea and we have chosen materials to withstand that. We have a real mix  of traditional and modern materials.
The natural copper will blend with the natural aspect of the area. The building is designed so that all side are frontages. Education moves on very quickly and we have to have something that will move with us and move education into a new era. Furness College will be a major player in the regeneration of this area, and to have a building which looks to the future with its design and materials is exactly what we want. When people come to Barrow they will see some very good traditional buildings, and they will see this as a state-of-the-art, iconic building which will take us into the future with the regeneration of the area. We have a brilliant design team. They really have worked with us and taken on board our brief more than anything.”

The new build is set to complete by around November 2011. The ground and first floors are double height and include workshop areas, which are classed as a key feature of the college.
The ground floor is to include the hair and beauty salons, construction, engineering and motor vehicle workshops and classrooms. The first floor is to comprise of plumbing, fabrication, and pipe welding, and also catering and restaurant.

Mr Hodgson said: “Our workshops are going to be showcased. They are not going to be hidden round the back out of the way. He said there will be “absolutely spectacular views” in each direction from the building, including Black Combe and Duddon Estuary, and Walney Channel and Barrow. Learners, staff and visitors will be able to take advantage of these views from the restaurant and an open terrace area also on the first floor.

During his visit to Furness College this month, the government’s North West Minister, Phil Woolas, said the plans could make the college one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. The second floor will be used for business courses, laboratories, and technical engineering classes. The third floors will include higher education classes, administration space and conference rooms. The college says the new build will have a good environmental assessment score. Its features will include computerised systems for heating and lighting and ventilation.

The second phase of the project is revamping the LRC, creating the MUGA and other external aspects which are due to complete in July or August 2012.The LRC is set to be linked to the new build via a covered link bridge. The LRC ground floor is to include a gym, sports classrooms and teaching areas for early years’ studies. The first floor will have music technology, multimedia, graphics, creative arts, and health and social care learning areas. There will be dedicated learning hubs for each curriculum area in both buildings. The hub will include resources for research and study.

The college’s Skills Centre, which was opened in 2007, will be dedicated to electrical and domestic industries training. The college’s car parking will be on land just off the campus.

Mr Hodgson said the student numbers have grown year on year. He said: “I’m sure people will be taken with the modern look and design. Learners will have fantastic accommodation.”

The college had to put the project on hold earlier this year when the LSC announced it had been hit by huge funding demands which it could not meet. Some 180 colleges had applied. Only 12 colleges were successful after showing they could reduce costs and maximise borrowing.

Mr Hodgson said the college showed the achievements of its students, its growth, the association with the University of Cumbria and its contribution to the regeneration of Furness.

Professor Liz Beauty, director of strategic academic practice and partnership at the University of Cumbria, said: “The university is thrilled by the go ahead for a second partnership site in Cumbria. The Furness College new build will be co-badged with the university providing up to date flexible space, designed specifically around the needs of higher education students. The college and the university will be linked via new technology and the building will create a rich learning environment for students linked to the skills needs of the Furness area.”

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