College begins multi-million Agri-Food development
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Plumpton College has been awarded £4.4 million in funding to invest in a new centre for training, education and skills development in the South East.
Work has begun on the new Agri-Food Hub being built in the heart of the 2500-acre campus near Lewes. The centre will provide the Agriculture, Food and wider land management industries with up-to-date skills training and support for rural businesses post-Brexit. The hub is due to be completed winter 2022.
The two-storey building is collaboratively funded by the college, South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Virgin Money & East Sussex County Council and will create a network hub for knowledge transfer, training and business improvement. It will include:
- Improved facilities for businesses and college learners to meet informally and conduct meetings.
- Flexible and inspiring lecture theatres and conferencing facilities to accommodate 300 people.
- Commercial training kitchens for food skills training and bakery apprenticeships. The facility will be used by schools, the wider community and charities to provide outreach education as well as for existing college apprentices following food and drink pathways.
- A café featuring produce from the Plumpton Estate.
Whilst undertaking construction work, the college is also ensuring it upholds its environment strategy and management of the estate as a custodian of the South Downs National Park. The hub will be built to the highest sustainability standards and carry a BREAM rating of excellent, have a sedum roof, a smart building management system and draw heat for a biomass plant. Habitat and biodiversity improvements including enhanced planting, hedgerow planting schemes in partnership with Sussex Wildlife Trust and creation of new habitats across the campus are already taking place.
Plumpton College which boasts one of the largest college farms in the country, have been investing in improvements to its Farm Enterprise, including farm animal production technologies for its sheep and beef facilities and a new £1.2m pig unit utilising NEDAP technology. The existing dairy unit now includes the latest automated Lely A5 astronaut milking stations and improvements to cow welfare also sponsored by Lely Atlantic.
Principal Jeremy Kerswell shared:
Post-Brexit, our sector is going to now rely on a better supply of more highly trained, educated and entrepreneurial entrants. There is a national shortage of skilled technicians in the land-based sector.
These facilities will allow the college to meet the skill demand through opportunities that are not currently delivered elsewhere in the South East such as teaching in Agri-Food sectors in butchery and bakery. The extra capacity, utilising the latest technology will allow for better research and innovation for these industries and a specialist space for rural businesses to connect, stimulate and embed business improvements and policy, and build links with export markets.
The funding is part of a wider Local Growth Fund of £5.4 million awarded projects aimed at developing the East Sussex economy, improving skills, administered by the SELEP. For more information about land and environment developments at Plumpton, you can visit the campus development page.
Councillor Rupert Simmons, lead member for economy at the County Council, said:
I was delighted to attend the recent Agri-Food Project event at Plumpton College and offer East Sussex County Council’s full support – having been able to secure the much needed investment from Government and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.
The project will help to fill the shortage of skills in the agricultural sector and provide the industry with a much-needed boost as it continues to face the challenges of Brexit and the pandemic.
Justin Ellis, Relationship Manager in Agriculture at Virgin Money, commented:
We are very much looking forward to our new partnership with Plumpton College, which is an excellent educational facility, producing consistently high results. The investment in College facilities will open up valuable prospects for current and future students, not only improving learning but also helping to safeguard the future of the Agricultural and Horticultural industries.
SELEP Board member and Chair of SELEP federated Board Team East Sussex, Graham Peters comments:
It’s very exciting to see this project progressing at pace. Plumpton College’s Agri-Food project will provide the Agriculture, Food and wider land management sectors with up-to-date skills training and support for rural businesses.
“The building will create a network hub for rural businesses for knowledge transfer, training and business improvement.
Learn more about our history
Since the original 400-acre College farm was bought back in 1919, Plumpton College has certainly seen a lot of changes.