Bedford College unveils £80 million refit

Detailed designs shown to public exhibitions.

Detailed designs for an 80 million refit of Bedford College have been unveiled.

The investment will see many of its tired buildings pulled down – including the feature tower block – and gradually replaced with landmark structures.

Plans are due to be submitted before the end of the year, and, if approved, work could start as early as 2010.

The idea is that, when complete, the Cauldwell Street campus will in effect be turned to face the River Great Ouse, making the most of its natural setting and connections with the town centre.

The move comes at a time when most other developments in Bedford are being put on the back burner.

College bosses hope the campus will be a national showcase of architectural expertise in an area which remains much in need of regeneration.

They say it will help to boost business in central Bedford, and provide fantastic training facilities for companies countywide.

Chief executive Ian Pryce said: "The new buildings will give Bedford College the space and equipment it needs for future generations and complement the South Bank Arts Centre, opened in November 2007, providing students with an inspirational environment in which to study.

"This an exciting time as we begin this sustainable and eco-friendly project."

Two listed buildings will remain – Old College House, and the site occupied by Brooks, hair and beauty training salon.

But most of the other buildings – outside of the recently-built sports centre – are piecemeal creations of the 1950s and 60s.

The college has claimed a warm reception for its plans, unveiled at two public exhibitions this week from businesses in the neighbourhood.

Bedford College already boasts 14,000 students, and is said to add nearly 60 million to the local economy each year.