University Technical College Plymouth is on track for autumn opening
THE £8million University Technical College Plymouth is taking shape and construction chiefs say they are bang on target for a September opening.
With just one block from the old Parkside School remaining, a new steel skeleton gives onlookers a glimpse of how the Devonport site will be transformed into a new concept manufacturing and engineering college.
In just three months since The Herald last visited the site, demolition work on the old school's hall and sports blocks has been completed, a steel outline of new buildings has been constructed, the new three-storey entrance and admin extension is already built and being clad and the one remaining wing form the former building is being revamped to contain hi-tech classrooms, offices and even a kitchen/diner.
Up to 90 construction staff, mostly working for developer BAM, but with sub-contractors involved too, are beavering away at the site every day.
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And they are confident the building will be completed, equipped and ready to take its first students in time for the start of the 2013/14 academic year.
"We are on programme," said Brian Warren, project leader for UTC Plymouth. "It really will happen – we have the funding."
Will Luggar, a building surveying degree student on placement with BAM from Plymouth University and working as assistant site manager, said: "We have done well."
He said that while the steel frame is being built in some parts, other teams are putting in flooring and cladding on completed sections, and the retained block is being completely refurbished, with new internal walls and windows already finished.
Overall, the new building will cover 5,900sq m of floorspace – 2,200sq m larger than the school that once stood on the site.
"Once the outside is wrapped, the mechanical and electrical work can go in," Mr Luggar said. "They are starting on the ground floor now."
The new red steel structures show the outline of what will be a huge school hall, parallel to Park Avenue, with ground floor changing rooms, and a large workshop above.
What is being termed "the west wing" – next to the Latitude 52 flats – will feature the remaining six workshops.
That is because the UTC will specialise in training the engineers and manufacturers of tomorrow.
And when finished the college will even look industrial, more like a factory than a school.
"It will be clad in crinkly steel," said Mr Warren. "And there will be no posh carpets.
"But the entrance will be glass fronted so it will have a real presence."
Mr Warren said the key to keeping the huge project on track was to continually hit targets.
"It's all about monitoring," he said. "You give yourself deadlines; it's no good having one last date, but taking everything within that.
"And you have mitigating action if one thing doesn't go to plan."
He and principal Mary Cox are based at Plymouth University but attend weekly progress meetings at the site.
"The pace will pick up," Mrs Cox said. "We can see where it's all going now."
When completed the UTC will be one of 32 nationally. It will accept students aged 14 to 19, from within a 45km travel-to-learn area, which includes South East Cornwall, Tavistock and South Hams.
The college will open with just Year 10 and Year 12 pupils, with 75 places to fill in each year group.
Mr Warren said about 80 per cent of the Year 10 places are filled already. There is a recruitment evening at City College Plymouth on February 26, and an event for students who have already put their names down, and their parents, at Princess Yachts, in Newport Street, Stonehouse, on March 7.