Planning has been approved for the region’s first University Technical College (UTC) to be built in Newton Aycliffe.
The £10m UTC South Durham, which will be built next to Hitachi Rail Europe’s new train-building factory on Aycliffe Business Park, will open in September 2016.
Durham County councillors this week voted unanimously in favour of the new engineering and advanced manufacturing Centre of Excellence, and building is now expected to start in September.
Chair of Trustees, professor Gary Holmes of the University of Sunderland, said: “This is good news for us and a major milestone for the UTC. Contractors can now start work on site later this summer.
“This landmark decision will allow us to realise our ambition to create an environment where students can thrive and develop the abilities that industry needs.”
The UTC South Durham is being developed between partners the University of Sunderland, Hitachi Rail Europe and Gestamp Tallent Limited and will be funded by the Department for Education as a state funded but independent school.
The design of the building reflects the UTC’s focus with a triple-height specialist engineering block housing state-of-the-art kit.
The UTC’s newly-appointed principle, Tom Dower, said: “The design of our new school enables us to teach in innovative ways and provide an exciting learning environment for students.
“Our location means that we can build close links with local employers who can offer placements, mentoring and project activities to our students.”
Planning permission for the UTC was approved subject to the finalisation of an ecology report, after protected newts, glowworms and commuting bats were found to inhabit the area of land which has been earmarked for the development.
But David Land, UTC South Durham trustee responsible for building and facilities, told Aycliffe Today: “It’s really a formality, we just need to migrate the wildlife and make sure the development is sympathetic to nearby nature.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve had so much support from the local authority for this.
“The challenge now, of course, is selling the idea to parents, but we’re not here to compete with local schools – we’re here to complement local schools, and provide a different and new option for local young people.”