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West Kent College building work gets green light

By This is Kent  |  Posted: March 06, 2009

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WORK on the £85m rebuild of West Kent College's Tonbridge campus has been cleared to continue, a Government minister told Parliament on Wednesday.

The college rebuild was one of eight schemes listed by Skills Secretary John Denham as having been given "detailed approval" in a statement to Parliament.

He said the national capital committee had met to discuss the projects after being deferred from its December meeting.

"Following the council's decision today, the LSC will be working with the colleges involved on the phasing and funding requirements of these projects and how they are now taken forward," he said.

"Their benefits will be felt by students and their local communities for years to come."

The committee's earlier decision to defer approval of the scheme – dubbed Campus 21 – had meant building work on the site was scaled back to only that essential for safety reasons.

Bill Fearon, the college's principal and chief executive, was unavailable to comment on the decision but his personal assistant confirmed he had yet to hear from the council. Following the decision to cease meaningful work on the site, Mr Fearon had said it would be "inconceivable" that the council would cancel the project as so much money had already been spent on it.

"I think it would be highly unlikely, given the fact that we have been through five stages of approval with the LSC, that they would want to slow the project down any further," he told the Kent and Sussex Courier at the time.

Along with the Tonbridge build, projects in Stoke-on-Trent, Coulsdon, Liverpool, Solihull, Northampton and two in Bolton were given the green light to proceed on Wednesday.

"The total cost of these schemes is nearly £400m," Mr Denham told MPs. "The council will provide more than £300m in Government funding over the next five years."

An assessment of colleges seeking approval for capital projects was ordered by the Government after it emerged more schemes were being approved than could be afforded by the Government.

In response, independent reviewer Sir Andrew Foster was appointed to determine how the situation arose.

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