Private cash to fund FE centre

20th June 1997 at 01:00
The Scottish Office gave the go-ahead on Monday for a Pounds 15 million state-of-the art further education college in Livingston, the heart of silicon glen.

The new site for West Lothian College is the first educational project to be approved in the UK by Labour under what used to be called the private finance initiative.

These schemes are now renamed public-private partnerships but Tony Godden, the college's principal, confirmed that the details were unchanged from the PFI scheme.

Work will start in the autumn on a 23-acre site next to Livingston Football Club's Almondvale stadium. The development consortium, led by GA Construction, the offshoot of a Dutch company, aims to complete the project by 1999, nine years after Ian Lang, as Scottish education minister, approved what was then planned as a campus in Livingston.

Brian Wilson, the current minister, has made it clear that private investment will continue to be sought for public projects. The West Lothian development was an example of the potential of these partnerships, Mr Wilson said.

The clinching arguments for the Scottish Office were the need for more modern FE facilities to service the growing number of high-tech manufacturing companies locating to West Lothian and a strong value-for-money case in replacing four outdated sites. One building is 164 years old. "For too long in FE the curriculum has been dictated by the accommodation," Mr Godden says. "We are now going to design the accommodation to fit the curriculum."

The new facilities will be open seven days and five nights a week and the aim is to increase student enrolments from 7,500 to 10,000 a year. The college also hopes to build on its award-winning mechatronics courses and on its links with higher education.

The college will have to contribute to the building costs from its own funds. Another Pounds 2 million is being invested through the European Regional Development Fund and the local enterprise company, support which Mr Godden described as "absolutely critical".

This will be Scotland's second FE project to be built, owned and operated with private capital. The first, approved under the Conservatives, is a Pounds 3.5 million campus for Falkirk College in Stirling.

* Five new or refurbished schools in the Falkirk area are on target to be built through a Pounds 65 million private finance intitiative project. The council wants to replace Bo'ness Academy, Graeme High and Dawson Park School, build a school for the Braes area and complete the final third of Larbert High. Nine private groups have applied to build the schools. One bid will be accepted in the autumn.

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