Chancellor George Osborne has congratulated Reaseheath College’s efforts to help food producers meet the challenge of world population growth and climate change.
Cutting the first sod on the site of a £8.5 million National Centre for Food Futures and the Environment, Mr Osborne said: “Reaseheath College is rightly renowned for the quality of the education it provides, especially in the agriculture industry. I always want to try to provide funding for projects like this.
“One of the key elements of our long-term economic plan is to deliver the best schools and skills for young people in all sectors so the next generation can succeed in the global race.”
The industry-led project will enable the Nantwich, Cheshire, college to support the government’s agri-tech strategy, which aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills, through the Skills Funding Agency, has allocated £5.8m of capital grant for the project. The remainder has come directly from the college.
The building will provide a national centre for horticultural production, environmental management and conservation and renewable energy, and will be the leading one of its type in the country. It will include a visitor and interpretation centre and a schools unit and is the latest of a string of world class facilities to be built on campus.
In a second project, the college, in partnership with Cheshire East Council, is to develop a state-of-the-art centre for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. This £1.5m project, funded by the Education Funding Agency, will develop desperately needed specialist facilities for students from the Cheshire East area.
Both developments are to be sited on the former college golf course. The buildings have been designed with considerable input from industry advisors and are planned to be open for students and the public by September 2015.
The college also intends to reconstruct its existing turf based sports pitches and build new 3G and multi-use artificial sports areas. A sports centre for use by both students and the local community is also planned. This will cater for grass based team sports and sports requiring an artificial playing surface such as hockey, as well as offering a six court sports hall, team changing facilities and a fitness centre.
Space released by the relocation of the horticulture department has been earmarked for further halls of residence, with construction planned to start this summer.
Welcoming the Chancellor’s visit, Principal Meredydd David said that Reaseheath was delighted to be involved in the development of another world class educational facility.
He said: “I am thrilled that the government has identified Reaseheath as their preferred location for investing capital to develop this national Food Futures Centre. This will ensure that Reaseheath can continue to deliver specialist technical and educational training to next generation leaders.”
Mr Osborne was accompanied on his visit by local MP Stephen O’Brien and MEP candidate for the north west Kevin Beaty.