A NORTH County Durham college has revealed plans for an £8m move to the site of a former steelworks.

Derwentside College is on the threshold of securing funding for the proposed move from its Consett site to a location in Project Genesis - where the town's steelworks once stood.

If the funding is secured, the new centre is expected to be opened in the latter half of 2002.

A development of this scale would be an economic boost to Consett and the surrounding area, and increase the district's profile.

The Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) has already approved an initial bid for £4m Government support and it is hoped that the final approval will be announced by the end of the month.

College principal David Houpt said: "I am sure the new college will build on the success of our past and present achievements and continue to provide a valuable service of education for the people of Derwentside."

The college employs about 300 staff and has 900 full-time and 9,000 part-time students.

Alex Watson, leader of Derwentside District Council, hailed the announcement as a boost for the area.

He said: "This is a prestige development for Consett and Derwentside. A project like this will bring people into the area and is also great news for Project Genesis.

"I think the principal and staff at the college deserve a lot of credit on this. Not long ago the college was struggling, but they've managed to turn things around."

The site will extend to four acres and incorporate new features, including a combined refectory and catering area and a leisure complex with classrooms for courses in beauty, hairdressing, leisure and sports.

The new facilities will also include a learning resource centre with private study classrooms, an information technology centre and a training room.

A spokesman for Dysart Developments, the company in charge of the Genesis Project, said: "The college is a well-established centre of excellence in the region.

"We are delighted that it is looking to extend its activities within the Genesis Project, so that the college can be part of Europe's most forward-looking urban regeneration scheme.