Blackburn College Campus Re-development
Blackburn College (‘BBC’) is a large further education college sited primarily on a single campus very close to the centre of Blackburn. It has in recent years embarked on an ambitious programme of improvement of provision and accommodation that is widely regarded as exemplary. BBC was rated ‘outstanding’ following its latest Ofsted inspection in 2007 and described as being ‘in a league of its own’.
BBC’s success is due to the inspirational efforts and vision of management, governors and staff. Burnetts team doesn’t claim credit for that success, but nor do we underestimate the contribution that we have made in support of it since we were appointed solicitors to the College in 2004. That has included advice in a number of spheres, including complex employment and commercial issues, but most substantially, throughout that period, and beyond, in connection with the reconfiguration of the campus.
The campus is, as mentioned, centrally situated which has both advantages for example in terms of strategic position and accessibility, and disadvantages, not least in terms of space in which to expand. The original main campus buildings were built in the Victorian era or post-war, with all the inconveniences and lack of modernity that implies. Our team, led by Property Solicitor John Priddle, has worked closely with the College’s management team and with its external advisers, notably general property consultants Dixon Webb and project manager cost consultants Pearson Fraser Limited in the transformation of the campus. Although the project is ongoing much has been achieved; major obstacles have been overcome to deliver the individual elements and the overall master plan (to date) on time, and on budget.
That work on our part has involved close liaison on a number of issues beyond pure property work. For instance our Construction Department has been very much to the fore in advising on EU procurement, and in the preparation and completion of a myriad of design team appointments and building documentation required for each phase of the development.
Property issues have also been complex, not least an overall deal with Blackburn-with-Darwen Borough Council which involved seven separate property transactions, enabling the Council to go forward with its own regenerative projects. That also enabled BBC to construct, as an associate college of Lancaster University, a University Centre, significant both in terms of a gateway building to campus and city, but which has also been very successful in terms of recruitment and provision.
Numerous works of refurbishment or construction have been dealt with: the latest is the 5 storey 8500 square metre Beacon Centre which was completed in December 2011, once more on time and budget. The demolition of the now unsightly existing post-war central building will follow soon; other phases in the pipeline include the new-build of a 3000 square metre home to accommodate STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and Music and Media, and the refurbishment of the Centre for Creative Arts. It may include, if space can be found, the provision of residential accommodation for the increasing number of students from other parts of the United Kingdom and overseas and new sports facilities.
Blackburn is a very diverse city, and like many centres in and around East Lancashire it has struggled following the demise of traditional textile-based industries. BBC has led the way back in terms of cutting edge educational provision, and in providing modern facilities to enable that. It will doubtless continue to do so, notwithstanding general financial pressure on the sector and the region. We look forward to helping it to achieve its objectives in the future as we have in the past.
For further information about Blackburn College, visit www.blackburn.ac.uk.