A PLANNING application has been lodged for a £27m college complex on the outskirts of Darlington.

Darlington College of Technology has submitted the application to the borough council for permission to build a replacement college campus at the Torrington's plant, on Yarm Road.

Darlington College hopes to open its "learning park" by August 2005.

But The Northern Echo understands that discussions between the college and Torringtons are still at a critical stage and no agreement has been reached, meaning the move to Yarm Road is not assured.

Torrington's plant manager Andy Dillon said: "All discussions are in their very early stages. Nothing is firm and the college is looking at other sites apart from ours."

Next week, councillors are likely to approve planning permission for a second application, which will decide the future of the present college site.

The college has submitted plans for outline permission to demolish all the college buildings and put housing on its site, in Cleveland Avenue.

The two applications have to be made now to secure funding from the Learning and Skills Council for the development.

College principal Sarah Farley said: "The final business case is not yet complete and has to be submitted to the local and national Learning and Skills Council for their approval. As part of this process we have to secure outline planning approval for the disposal of our existing college sites and identify a new site.

"The planning application for the new site is still being considered as further technical details to this are being worked on.

"Our main aim is to develop new, modern facilities for all students and to improve access to the college, especially by public transport."

The council's planning committee will decide the future of the Cleveland Avenue site on Wednesday. The Torringtons application will be decided at a later date.