Planning application for University Technical College expected soon

Proposed Bristol Technology & Engineering College, Stoke Gifford.

A planning application for the construction of a University Technical College (UTC) on the site of the former Filton High School looks set to be submitted soon following a public consultation event held earlier this week.

Funding for the a UTC to serve Bristol and South Gloucestershire was approved by the Government in October 2011 and South Gloucestershire Council has earmarked the New Road site as its preferred location.

Subject to planning approvals, the UTC will be constructed adjacent to a new engineering department building that the City of Bristol College wants to erect on the same site, in front of Abbeywood Community School.

A planning application for the engineering department building, submitted in December last year, looks set to be given the green light at next week’s meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s Development Control (West) Committee after a recently published officer’s report recommended approval.

University Technical Colleges are a Government initiative that give 14-19 year olds the opportunity to “take a highly regarded, full time, technically-oriented course of study”. Staff manning this week’s consultation event said the Government was keen to see the Bristol and South Gloucestershire UTC open by September 2013.

Formally known as the Bristol Technology & Engineering Academy (BTE Academy), the new UTC will be attended by a total of 440 students when fully occupied. In the first year of opening , the maximum number of students is expected to be 120 in Year 10 and 100 in Year 12. When fully operational, the UTC will have 33 Full Time Equivalent members of staff.

The new three-storey building will house large workshop type areas, where students can undertake project work. There will be smaller classrooms and laboratory areas, as well as a sports hall, kitchen and dining area. Externally there will be a multi-use sports area, and amenity parkland where ecological studies can be undertaken.

The catchment area of the new UTC will extend as far as North Somerset and BANES, which it is claimed will reduce the negative impact for any one local secondary school in terms of student roll.

The UTC will be co-sponsored by local employers Rolls Royce, Airbus and GKN Aerospace, the University of the West of England and by City of Bristol College (the ‘lead sponsor’).

Dave Baker, Headteacher of the nearby Abbeywood Community School, has already voiced his opposition to the new college, because of its impact on student numbers in local schools. He has also been critical of City of Bristol College for its “piecemeal approach” to planning applications, a reference to the fact that separate planning applications are being submitted for the engineering department building and the UTC.

Local residents who claimed that the proposed engineering block would lead to gridlock on local roads are likely to make similar representations about the UTC. Planning officials, whilst admitting that traffic congestion is a problem in the area, have rejected this argument in relation to the former project, saying:

“Although in the interim this proposal will increase congestion in the vicinity of the site, congestion is at such a level that the additional vehicle movements on the network would be indeterminable and would be no worse than daily variances that can currently exist.”

The planning application for the new UTC is expected to be submitted before the end of April.

More information and related links:

Sketch plan of the proposed BTE Academy in New Road, Stoke Gifford.

Image: Sketch plan of the UTC site (click to enlarge).

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