Multi-million pound development approved for Surrey college

A design of what the two storey teaching space could look like
Merrist Wood College specialises in the land-based industries. -Credit:Activate Learning

A project set to transform a college campus in Guildford has been given planning permission. Merrist Wood College and University Centre is set to undergo a multi-million-pound redevelopment.

The plans include the construction of a new glasshouse as well as teaching space with workshops, cafe and construction skills area. This will involve the demolition of 25 buildings, some of which are no longer in use.

The new space would lead to an increase in students of 227, which would take the number of students from 1,441 to 1,668.

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The plans, approved by Guildford Borough Council, are contingent upon final approval from the Department of Education which listed Merrist Wood as one of the colleges with the highest need for new buildings and facilities. Merrist Wood College specialises in horticulture, floristry, and landscaping among other subjects.

The project is split between the northern and southern side of the campus, which is in Worplesdon. On the northern side it is planned for 15 buildings to be demolished and a new glass house built with a floor area of about 1120 sq m as well as a new single story vocational/specialist teaching block.

On the southern side a new two-storey teaching block is proposed which will have workshops, a construction store, cafe and construction skills area. After demolition of existing buildings, areas where nothing is built will be seeded.

design showing what the teaching space may look like
There are plans to build the several new teaching spaces -Credit:Activate Learning

This planning approval marks the start of what is one of the largest investment projects in Activate Learning’s history, with the project aimed at transforming and modernising the college's ageing facilities. The redevelopment will also include upgrades to existing buildings and improved resources for both students and staff.

Gary Headland DL, Chief Executive of Activate Learning, expressed his enthusiasm about the project. He said: "This is a significant milestone for Merrist Wood College and University Centre which we are proud to have as part of Activate Learning.

“As one of Surrey’s anchor institutions, we are striving to make a major contribution to the productivity of Surrey by significantly increasing the range of high-quality, highly relevant programmes we offer in the county.

“Each of three college campuses in Surrey – Merrist Wood College and University Centre, Guildford College, and Farnham College – are adapting and investing to ensure that we serve our local communities as best we possibly can.

“While funding isn’t yet in place, this is a really positive step in the right direction, we now await formal approval from the Department for Education for this incredibly important project for Surrey.”

The design of the  two -storey teaching zone
There are plans for a two- storey teaching block, which will have workshops, a construction store, cafe and construction skills area -Credit:Activate Learning

Merrist Wood College specialises in land-based industries, and in the past has been recognised for its successes at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows. Its indoor riding arena is one of the largest of any college in the country and its other facilities include specially designed studios and workshops for floristry, garden design and access to an adjoining 18-hole golf course.

Jo Manser, Group Director of Merrist Wood College and University Centre and Activate Learning’s land-based faculty, said: “This will be the biggest investment for Merrist Wood in its 81 years as a land-based college.

“Now, more than ever, it is critically important to preserve land-based education within our communities and we want to see land-based education flourish in Surrey.

“The development will consist of two new buildings that will provide new state of the art facilities for arboriculture, countryside management, horticulture and landscaping, equine, and animal management.

“This investment will secure a sustainable future for Merrist Wood for generations to come.”

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