£28m college campus at docks on timetable
STUDENTS could be on the move in Port Talbot where a new college campus costing up to £28 million is on the timetable.
Neath Port Talbot College has confirmed it has already had provisional Welsh Government approval for the state-of-the-art development in the rejuvenated docks area of the town.
It says that as well as boasting all the latest technological advances, the new site would give the shopping centre a boost by bringing in more than 1,000 students a day.
Principal Mark Dacey said there were issues around the present Afan campus in Margam, which was built in the late 1950s.
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"In particular we are terribly constrained with parking — that is our biggest difficulty," said Mr Dacey.
"People are parking in the streets around the college quite legally, but not in places where residents want them to park.
"The transport links are not always great. It is causing us a fortune in bus passes to bring pupils back and forth.
"What we want is something that supports the sustainability agenda to get people here without having to drive."
Mr Dacey said the new campus, estimated at costing between £24 million and £28 million, had received category two approval, which meant the funding would be available at the start of 2014.
"There is still work to be done with the Welsh Government," he added. "We have meetings set up with their officers dealing with the capital expenditure but we feel quite positive about it.
"We are hoping that by the end of this year the details will become clearer."
Transport to and from the new campus will benefit from it being located close to the town's railway station, due to undergo a £7.5 million upgrade, and the new £107 million Harbour Way dual carriageway.
Mr Dacey said it would give the college the opportunity to expand what the campus could offer, particularly around bilingual provision and more traditional A-level provision, as well as higher education qualifications.
"We are going to have a really good look at what education should look like," he said.
"Should there be IT labs or should everything be totally mobile? We are looking to tie in with tablet technology. In fact we are looking at an educational campus that will not look like any other educational institute. It's going to be very different.
"Also, we are not going to develop a campus with lots of refectories, which will be good for traders in the town centre.
"There are plans to regenerate it, and bringing 1,000 students a day to the town centre will play a major part in that regeneration."
Aberafan Shopping Centre manager Steve Redmore described it as excellent news.
"Anything that brings additional trade to the town centre is good for us," said Mr Redmore.
"A purpose-built campus with much better links to the town centre and to public transport will be good for the students as well as good for the town.
"It's good that the council is encouraging non-retail developments in that part of the town, as any new retail developments would be a threat.
"These are difficult times as it is, without any more retail units being built. There's not enough for the town centre to be filled at the moment."