Skills centre delayed, but £2.5m is safe

Scenesetter of Central Beds College
Scenesetter of Central Beds College

£2.5m of funding towards a planned £4m skills centre in Leighton Buzzard is safe despite “contractual issues” forcing the original site to be abandoned.

The Leighton Linslade Engineering and Construction Skills Centre was a joint venture between Central Bedfordshire College and Vinci Technology Centre, tipped to be built on Vinci Technology’s land at Stanbridge Road.

The project has £2.5m secured in funding from South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP).

But after Vinci pulled out, Central Beds College was forced to quickly find another site off Chartmoor Road.

MP Andrew Selous said: “It’s going to happen but just not off Stanbridge Road. I understand that we are not going to lose the funding as the [new] site has been drawn up.

“It’s a massively important facility for local businesses and our skills training needs. Leighton Buzzard in particular has been very under-resourced in terms of skills training opportunities in construction and engineering.”

Although another site is chosen, with planning permission yet to be sought, the project will not meet its original autumn 2016 delivery.

Central Beds College’s Sarah Mortimer told the LBO: “The project is exactly as it was in terms of its purpose. We have secured a different, more advantageous site targeted to open in May or June 2017 and students will start a full programme in September 2017.”

Ms Mortimer said that around five work-based employers were collaborating with the project, making Leighton Buzzard “a destination for high-end technology”.

Stephen Catchpole, Chief Executive of SEMLEP said: “We have been working with the college to ensure the project can go ahead at a new site in Leighton Buzzard and this has been regularly reported to the SEMLEP group that oversees our local growth fund, to ensure progress with the project is in line with the original proposals.

“The £2.5million from our local growth fund remains allocated to the project, and none of the funding has been withdrawn.”