An ambitious £40 million regeneration scheme from Hadlow College to create 1000 jobs with a sustainable energy park at the former Betteshanger coal mine in Kent has been welcomed by business leaders.
The site, which will be considered by Dover District Council next month, is set to create a broad spectrum of posts including construction employment creating an innovative green tech complex, plus a unique sustainable energy and mining heritage visitor attraction.
According to the college’s management, the project, which could begin next spring if gaining final planning consent, aims to create a world-class research and development centre that will have strong connections to the education sector.
In addition to the 6,700 square foot of low carbon buildings, it is hoped the visitor facility, which would focus on renewable energy and marking the mining heritage of the area, would attract more than 100,000 people to the area each year.
The proposals are backed by £11 million of public sector investment and £29 million of private investment, offering a welcome boost to the hard-pressed East Kent economy. Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, director of finance at Hadlow College enthused that working closely with East Kent’s enterprise zone would enable a successful partnership to be forged between business, schools and colleges in the area.
He said: “The Betteshanger sustainable parks project is down to five years worth of work with Dover Council and the Homes and Community Agency. “It is a unique venture between business and education that will involve the creation of a visitor attraction that we hope will be recognised on an international level. “We have kept the plans under the radar for a long time on this until we were certain that it was happening, as there have been previous false dawns about the Betteshanger site.
“We’ve already confirmed one lynchpin company for the site, Lightsource, but I believe there could be dozens of businesses operating from the park. One of the things that makes this unique is a stewardship scheme that we have created, as we wanted people within the area to be a part of the plans. This programme will be aimed at those who perhaps previously worked at the mines (which closed at the end of the 1980s), in which they will play a part in helping develop the site.
“There will be 1000 jobs created from the scheme, which includes around 400 in the construction sector, so this will be a massive deal for the regeneration of the area, which is very exciting.”
Naisha Polaine, of the Homes and Community Agency, which is the government agency working with the college on releasing the land, said: “We are honoured to be working with Hadlow College to create this exciting new development which will lead to new jobs, a higher education campus, new sustainable industries and a 21st century park facility.”