AMBITIOUS redevelopment plans costing up to £30m would help make a long-standing agricultural college one of the best in the country, bosses say.
The newly announced proposals for Houghall, near Durham City, are dependent on funding but include: a new animal care centre; cattle shed including pens for 80 cows; sheep shed with pens for 266 sheep; large pig shed; potting shed and floristry store; kennels; dog agility unit; an aviary; equine centre with 36 stables and an improved entrance and reception area.
A weighty planning application has been submitted to Durham County Council, which is expected to make a decision in coming months.
Suzanne Duncan, principal of Houghall’s owners East Durham College, said: “Our ambition is for Houghall to be regarded as one of the leading land-based training providers in the country.
“In order to make this happen we need to completely redevelop the site.
“Many of the buildings were built in the 1930s, so to ensure we can deliver the best possible education and training we need modern facilities matching those out in industry.
“The students at our state-of-the-art facility in Peterlee (opened in 2009, costing £36m) have benefited greatly from the new build campus there and we dearly want facilities of the same quality for those attending Houghall too.
“The redevelopment will ensure a bright future for Houghall and that our students and employers will have the necessary skills to help boost the rural economy of County Durham and beyond.”
The plans will come as a relief for the region’s farming sector, after bizarre plans to transform the site into a multi-million pound fantasy theme park collapsed in 2010.
However since taking over the college in 2012, Mrs Duncan has repeatedly spoken of her commitment to Houghall continuing and growing.
The picturesque 380-hectare green belt site, on the doorstep of historic Durham City, currently includes a farm, plant centre, workshops and sports facilities and trains more than 1,000 students a year.
Cash for the planning process has been provided by the government’s Skills Funding Agency and further funding bids are in the pipeline. College bosses hope the work could be completed by September next year.
For more information, visit the planning portal at durham.gov.uk using the reference CE/13/01542/FPA.