Approval has been given for a new £16m college campus in Wellingborough town centre.
It is hoped the new Tresham campus, which will be built on the site of the existing college in Church Street, will open in September 2016.
Members of Wellingborough Council’s planning committee took very little time to discuss and approve the plans at a meeting on Wednesday night.
Councillors said it was a major boost for education in the area as well as an integral part of the redevelopment of the town centre.
The new campus has been supported by the Skills Funding Agency and will provide opportunities for up to 1,000 young people and adults to gain the training and skills they need for employment or university.
It will become a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) centre, and will also offer subjects including construction, hair and beauty, computing, health and care, and art and design.
A digital skills academy will also be established.
Speaking at the meeting before the go-ahead was given, Cllr Lora Lawman, who studied at the college when she first came to Wellingborough, said: “I am really pleased that we keep Tresham College here for the youngsters in the area and that they have been successful this time to get the funding which was the major stumbling block the last time.
“I can’t wait to actually see it.”
Cllr Martin Griffiths said: “I can’t wait for this to happen.
“I think we should approve this and let’s get cracking, this will tidy up one of the eyesores in the town centre and then we will get onto the other ones.”
Council leader Paul Bell also welcomed the plans, and said: “It is an integral part of the redevelopment of the town centre of Wellingborough.
“At one stage we were at great risk of losing our college.
“We can’t afford to lose students to Kettering or Corby.
“But we have a great chance here.”
And Cllr Malcolm Waters added his support to the plans before the decision was made unanimously.
He said: “10 years of hard work we have been trying to get this.
“In the next few minutes, history will be made in Wellingborough and we should be proud of that.”
Speaking after the meeting, Tresham principal Stuart Wesselby said: “It’s great news that we now have the green light from Wellingborough Council and we very much value their ongoing support throughout this process.
“While the planning consent brings the new campus a stage closer, the college is currently in the process of securing additional funding before the scheme can start on site.
“The original timeframe would have seen us open the doors to the new facility in September 2015,
“However, this will now be deferred as we secure the investment required to progress the development.
“The business case for a new campus at Wellingborough is compelling and we are now liaising with a number of potential funding partners who will work with us to take the scheme to the next stage.
“In recent years Tresham has successfully redeveloped its campuses at Corby and Kettering to provide modern facilities fit for 21st century learning.
“We will now use the experience and knowledge gained from developing these schemes to move the plans from the drawing board on to site.”
Chief executive of Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership Jo Lappin said: “This is excellent news for Wellingborough.
“Our businesses and our economy need young people with the right skills and the new campus will play an important role in delivering this.
“The planning decision brings the new campus an important step nearer and we will be working closely with Tresham College, Wellingborough Council and other key partners to make sure that the funding is put in place to make this a reality.”
Chief executive of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership Daniel Charles Mouawad said: “The redevelopment of the Wellingborough campus is a vital element of the regeneration plans for the town.
“The capital investment will ensure that learners have access to modern facilities that will equip them with skills that local employers require.
“We will be working with Tresham College and other partners closely over the coming weeks and months to bring the project to fruition.”
The plans also had strong support from Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce.
James Wilson, chamber president, said: “This is excellent news for Wellingborough.
“It is of paramount importance to the future growth and prosperity of Wellingborough that a further and higher educational establishment is maintained within the town centre.”
Mr Wilson, who is a qualified planning professional and managing director of Earls Barton-based James Wilson Associates, added: “The chamber supports the redevelopment of this site by Tresham College and its continued use for educational purposes which will help to maintain and improve footfall and use of the town centre to the benefit of all businesses located there.”
John Cable, manager of the town’s Business Improvement District, which works to boost the town centre through events and promotions, said: “Wellingborough is on the up and this is a further indication of out great town’s change in fortunes.
“We welcome the extra footfall the new site will bring.
“The newly-improved Tresham will add to what we already have on offer in the town, from free parking to an unrivalled selection of independent traders.”
Planning consent was granted unanimously for the construction of a three-storey building to house teaching, workshop, salon, dining and administrative accommodation.
In addition, approval was given for associated landscape and infrastructure works, including a 23-space car park, 10 motorcycle spaces and 30 bicycle spaces.