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CITB plans to sell college land

Industry training body looks to raise £6 million to upgrade student accommodation by selling off land at Bircham Newton base

THE CONSTRUCTION Industry Training Board is preparing to sell off land at its National Construction College in Norfolk in a bid to raise funds to improve the centre.

The CITB wants to raise around £6 million to upgrade student accommodation at its Bircham Newton base by selling land east of the site for a major residential development.

A CITB source said: 'We should be able to say more when a planning application is submitted in April. The fact is we need to raise money to improve the site, and we'd rather do it via these means than through the industry levy.'

Norwich-based planning consultant Carpenter is drawing up a masterplan for the site and is hoping to submit a planning application to King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council in April.

The CITB urgently needs to improve outdated accommodation on the eastern side of the central road which splits the site.

Four 'H-Blocks' - each housing around 50 students - would be replaced with modern en suite blocks and communal facilities on the western side.

This would leave the eastern side of the former airfield free for the residential scheme, which is also understood to include a primary school and improved transport infrastructure.

The proposals represent the revival of a previous outline application for a 132,000 sq m residential scheme submitted by the CITB last March, but withdrawn in July.

A council insider said: 'The size of the area proposed amounted to a new village but current planning policies only allow for limited development in existing villages.

'If a new scheme is submitted, it is likely to be called in by the Government Office for the East of England.'

But a source closely involved with the scheme said: 'We submitted the outline application last year to open a dialogue with the council.

'It is a large proposal, but it is within the development boundaries of Bircham Newton and, as a former airfield, it is a brownfield site. The college provides a lot of jobs and money for the local economy as well as facilities.'