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Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Tuesday, 14 September 2010 15:29 UK
Hartlepool's new 52m College of Further Education
How the building will look
The building will cost 52m and will take up 19,000 square metres

Work is on course to complete Hartlepool's new £52m College of Further Education.

The project was one of only 14 from across the country to be given government funding from a list of almost 150 colleges.

It should be open by April 2011, and will feature facilities for courses including hair and beauty and sports science, as well as a gym and bistro.

BBC Tees' reporter Lee Johnson went to have a look around...

Difficult time

Hartlepool's new college has been a long time coming.

Work on the new college started in October 2009, but staff had to spend the previous 12 months putting together a business plan to get the funding from the Learning Skills Council.

However, what started as a plan to create a £5m extension to the existing college turned into a complete new build, but even that almost didn't happen, as Assistant Principal Andrew Steel explains:

"It's been quite a difficult journey," he says.

"I think the skin of our teeth is probably the right way to put it. It took around 12 months just to get the bid put together, and the rules were changing all the time.

Artist impression of how the college will look
It's hoped the building will be used by the whole town

"The Learning and Skills council asked us to make the building bigger, and we did that but then it was announced all money was stalled for the project."

In March 2008 the then Labour government announced it was closing the Learning and Skills Council, leaving projects like the one in Hartlepool facing an uncertain future.

"The government said it only had enough funding for 14 of the 145 colleges on the list for funding, so we had to go through an intense bidding process," adds Tony.

"As it happened we were one of those chosen but it was a very difficult time for us."

In September last 2009, just weeks before the cut off point for funding to be handed out, the government approved a £52m grant for the new 19,000 square metre building.

Andrew Steel says the successful bid was a joint effort:

"We did utilise the local authority, One North East and certainly the local MP, Iain Wright, as well as (former Hartlepool MP and Business Secretary) Peter Mandelson.

"I think without all of that support we wouldn't be stood here today."

New investment

The new college will be situated alongside another educational project taking place in the town.

The Cleveland College of Art and Design is extending its premises into a former council building, creating what both colleges hope will be an education quarter for the town.

But Assistant Principal Andrew Steel says the new college won't just be for students.

"It's not Hartlepool College's building, it's the town's building," he says.

"It's located at the gateway into the town, and this will be the first major building people see, and we think it gives a great first impression about what the town is about."

Hartlepool's new 52m College of Further Education.
It faced many obstacles, but should be complete in April 2011

The new college will offer students access to state of the art facilities for courses including hair and beauty and sports science.

However, it'll also house equipment to use in building services, aerospace and construction and mechanical and electrical engineering.

Andrew says tempting companies from across the region, and hopefully the rest of the country, will be vital in maintaining the college and bringing new investment into the local economy.

"We do think it's a state of the art building." he says

"We have a healthy supply of students, but I think added to that, we're really keen on getting industry in to use the college.

"We want companies regional and national to use the college because the facilities will be second to none."

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Priorities set out for Hartlepool
15 Apr 10 |  England
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05 Apr 10 |  Tees
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26 Jun 09 |  Education
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