The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Friday, 8 August 2008

Kilmarnock College managers confident of new campus go-ahead

By: Murdoch MacDonald

KILMARNOCK COLLEGE managers are confident that plans for a new £40million campus will go ahead, despite a Scottish Funding Council delay to the project.

The SFC’s Capital Investment Committee has told the college that cash is not available under the current spending review covering the period until 2011, despite agreeing to the need for the new building and praising the college’s outline business case.

Chairman of the College’s board of management Stephen Brannagan said: “We would like to correct suggestions in some sections of the media that the plans have come to a halt. Whilst we are disappointed that we will not be eligible for funding under the current review, we are confident that we can work with the SFC to ensure that the project is given the go-ahead at the earliest possible moment. Reports that we have been turned down for funding are well wide of the mark, as we have not yet actually applied for the cash. We have submitted an outline business case, and this has been well received.”

The outline business case included a number of options: for the rebuilding of the college on a new site, the rebuilding of the college on the existing site or a redevelopment of the existing building.

The SFC committee acknowledged that an appropriate plan should be put in place, but has asked the college to delay submission of a final outline business case until a new Principal is in post and planned management development is in place.

Stephen Brannagan said: “We expect to announce the appointment of a new Principal in September, with the successful candidate taking up his or her position by the end of the year. The new management team will be in place by the end of September.

“Whilst we are disappointed at the delay, we believe that the work we have already undertaken on the project will stand us in good stead when the SFC are in a position to make funds available for the further development of our plans. We would expect to resubmit our outline business case in early 2009.

“Our original estimates saw the appointment of a construction company by 2010 and completion by 2012. This latest news would only delay us by an estimated 12 months.

“The new management team at Kilmarnock College is determined to present the strongest possible case over the coming months for a new college designed to fulfil the needs and aspirations of learners in Ayrshire in the 21st century.

“We have made giant strides over the past year to improve both the management procedures and educational opportunities within the college, and we look forward to a bright and successful future at the heart of Kilmarnock’s planned regeneration.

“The Funding Council committee have accepted the need for a new college, and have praised our outline business case, so we are disappointed that funds are not available at this stage. The people of Kilmarnock and the surrounding area need and deserve a modern further educational facility to help revitalise its social and economic development.

“In the interim, the new management team will continue to improve both the college’s administrative performance and its range of classes and courses. We are determined to ensure that the college provides the highest quality and choice of further education and career enhancement opportunities.”

The letter from the SFC committee to the college states: “The committee recognises the work that Acting Principal Dr Gordon Jenkins and Chairman Stephen Brannagan have put in to developing the business case to this stage. Although the timescales envisaged will have to be revised, from our experience with other college capital projects, we have found that additional time spent in the planning and development phases is never wasted and leads to a more robust and better-managed project.”

Speaking on West FM Radio, Scottish Funding Council interim chief executive Lawrence Howells said the delay was “not a big problem” and that projects of this nature would normally take about two years in the planning stages.

Mr Howells said: “The first step is to get an agreed outline business case between us and the college. Once that’s agreed, there are various steps before you actually start building anything. The normal timescale for this scale of project is a minimum of a couple of years to get from where we are now to the stage where we’re actually ready to go on with the project.”

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