New science block approved for college campus in Brighton

A sixth form college can build new science labs after planning permission was granted this evening (Wednesday 7 November).

Varndean College plans to create a new block to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in place of two temporary classrooms in Surrenden Road, Brighton.

Neighbours opposing the plans addressed the Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall.

They said that an application had been submitted to designate an area of green space at the college site an asset of community value.

They said several temporary classrooms had been given temporary planning permission for five years but all remained on the site.

Planning manager Nicola Hurley told the committee that all temporary classrooms on the site had permission to be there until next year.

The application referred to a “masterplan”, prompting Withdean Conservative councillor Nick Taylor, in a letter to the Planning Committee, to ask the college to share its plans.

Student numbers at Varndean College have soared since Central Sussex College closed its Haywards Heath campus in 2016.

Students travel in from across Sussex to study for A-levels and post-16 qualifications.

College principal Phil Harland told the Planning Committee that Varndean delivered high-quality education to students from some of the most deprived areas of Brighton and Hove.

He said that he would either need new buildings or permission to keep the temporary classrooms or the college could not educate its expanding student body.

Dr Harland said: “Without new accommodation, we cannot be the inclusive college we want to be.

“We would not be able to deliver access to high-quality accommodation for STEM subjects.”

If the buildings were not there, he told the committee that the land would not be used for recreation because it was a slope.

The new building would have four science labs on the ground floor and six classrooms on the second floor, councillors were told.

One of the labs and one classroom would be classed as “accessible”, with the second floor used by the special educational needs unit.

Labour councillor Penny Gilbey, a retired senior laboratory technician, welcomed the new classrooms.

She said: “A lab needs to be up to date. Last time I went to Varndean was to do with STEM with the university and I found the labs so out of date.”

After several councillors spoke in favour of the project, Julie Cattell, the Labour councillor who chairs the committee, said: “Hopefully this will encourage more girls into STEM subjects.

“Eventually the temporary classrooms will be gone. Temporary classrooms are a fact of life all over the country and the principal has said the land cannot be used for anything else.”

The committee voted unanimously to grant planning permission for the scheme.

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