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Rival bids for music college

An innovative scheme to set up a school of music and recording technology that could attract up to 500 students has pitched South Ayrshire and North Ayrshire into a planning battle, David Henderson writes.

The initiative stems from Benny Gallagher, the Largs-born musician, and Brian Wilson, Labour MP for Cunninghame North. Feasibility studies by Enterprise Ayrshire have shown a specialist college could be viable on the Ayrshire coast.

South Ayrshire councillors were yesterday (Thursday) set to ratify plans for a site in Dam Park close to Ayr town centre. Backing would come from Ayr College and Paisley University's Craigie campus.

Meanwhile, North Ayrshire has identified three possible sites and could link with Kilmarnock and Ayr colleges and James Watt College in Greenock, which hopes to open a base in Kilwinning.

Enterprise Ayrshire will assess the bids and be heavily involved in any development which could ultimately depend on lottery funds.

Mike McCabe, South Ayrshire's director of educational services, said the council's scheme would bring further and higher education together with the local authority and the local enterprise company. The target market was further education students but a college would help to build music links with schools.

The council is already establishing a major recording studio in Mainholm Academy in Ayr, incorporating a 200-seat auditorium.

The educational services committee was told the music industry had enjoyed the highest rate of growth and technological progress of any industry and that the advent of digital and optical technologies would further advance the frontiers of music. The project would marry music, science, and leading-edge technology and help to extend the Dam Park-Craigie campus site to some 7,000 students.

South Ayrshire estimates a college would employ between 40 and 50 people and add around Pounds 900,000 to the local economy. Around 300 students staying in the Ayr area would generate some Pounds 540,000.

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