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New Ashford College set to go ahead after getting full-funding for £16m new home

By Chris Price

A long-awaited scheme to build a new home for a Kent college looks set to become a reality after it received full-funding for the £16 million project.

Ashford College’s new larger base looks set to be built by early 2017 and open in September that year, offering facilities aimed at teaching manufacturing, construction, technology and service sector courses.

The long-running proposals were first put forward by K College before it was split up last year, with Hadlow College taking over the site.

The proposed £16m Ashford College
The proposed £16m Ashford College

Hadlow Group, which also runs K College’s former Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells campuses, has secured £9.8 million from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) to build the first phase of the project.

It will create a 5,112sqm campus nearer the town centre, capable of housing 900 more students and replacing its current home on Jemmett Road.

Ashford Borough Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson said: “This is excellent news and means at long last we can realise our vision for a further and higher education college right in the heart of the town at Elwick Road, adjacent to the International Station. This will greatly assist in the plans to rejuvenate the town centre.

“A highly skilled local workforce is vital for the success of our versatile economic growth in Ashford.

“The college will help put Ashford on the map, which is why we recently agreed to provide funding support, and we are very much looking forward to seeing it.”

What the £16m Ashford College should look like
What the £16m Ashford College should look like

The SELEP cash adds to £5 million already awarded by the Skills Funding Agency and £1.8 million given by Ashford Borough Council.

Hadlow Group principal and chief executive Paul Hannan said: “I’m delighted that we have managed to secure funding for this new exciting college build in Ashford.

“The college has received tremendous support for this project from many stakeholders. Particular support has come from Ashford Borough Council and also from the local business community. The town and surrounding area has so much potential.

“The reality of building a state-of-the-art campus means that the town will have the opportunity to deliver high class education and training in an excellent new resource.”

The cash has come from SELEP’s £22 million Skills Capital Fund, which was launched in December to develop a skilled workforce for businesses in the South East.

What the site for the new Ashford College looks like now
What the site for the new Ashford College looks like now

East Kent College secured £1,186,750 from the cashpot to support plans for new training facilities for engineering, logistics and service industries at its Dover campus, another former K College site.

Principal Graham Razey said: “Since taking over the campuses at Dover and Folkestone from the former K College, we have worked closely with local employers, such as Dover Harbour Board and others, to fully understand their priorities and needs in terms of skills for the future.

“This funding will help us to deliver on our promise of supporting our important coastal communities, and transforming the lives of the area’s young people, too many of whom have become disenfranchised from education, skills and training.”

Chairman Peter Jones said: “Improving skills is a key priority for us and our partners.

“Funding for the Ashford College bid should be celebrated as it will have a direct impact not only on the lives of the individual students, but also the long-term success of the local economy.”

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