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Green light for £9m 'factory' for tech education

PUBLISHED: 15:45 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:50 17 October 2019

View of the South side of the new Digi-Tech Factory. The proposal has been approved by Norwich City Council.  Picture: Coffey Architects

View of the South side of the new Digi-Tech Factory. The proposal has been approved by Norwich City Council. Picture: Coffey Architects

Archant

A new £9m digital technology centre in Norfolk has been given the green light by planners.

View of the North side of the new Digi-Tech Factory   Picture: Coffey ArchitectsView of the North side of the new Digi-Tech Factory Picture: Coffey Architects

The Digi-Tech Factory at City College Norwich will provide a big boost to tech education in the county and could laid the groundwork for more jobs in the industry locally.

The college revealed plans for the new facility at its Ipswich Road side in March, after the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) announced it was handing a £6.1m grant to the project.

A planning application was submitted in July and approved by Norwich City Council earlier this month.

Jerry White, deputy principal, said: "It is a significant step in making a reality of the project. We are really pleased that the plans we put together were accepted - the planners could really see what we were trying to achieve and that is a credit to the team working here and the architects."

View of the North side of the new Digi-Tech Factory Picture: Coffey ArchitectsView of the North side of the new Digi-Tech Factory Picture: Coffey Architects

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The Digi-Tech Factory will be built on what remains of the 1960s buildings of Southwell Lodge - the rest of the site was cleared in 2012 to make way for the college's creative arts building.

Mr White said demolition work had already begun to clear the last of the buildings, with construction of the new facility expected to begin in the new year.

It will include a variety of digital labs for work from coding to electrical engineering, a virtual reality (VR) learning space and digital studios as well as meeting rooms and break-out spaces.

The site will house the new Digi-Tech Factory. Picture: Victoria PertusaThe site will house the new Digi-Tech Factory. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

The building's design and access statement promises that it will not be "a typical educational building": "It seeks to take pupils away from the standard school-like environment, offering an industry atmosphere that prepares pupils for their future employments."

City College Norwich - which is stumping up £3m of its own money for the project - hopes the centre will enable it to increase the number of students on digital technology courses from around 100 to 470 and open up basic and advanced digital skills courses to adult learners.

The college will be one of the first places in the country to offer new vocational T-levels when they are implemented in 2020/21, with the first cohort of T-level students expected to move into the Digi-Tech Factory during that year.

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