Tyne Coast College has confirmed it is working with South Tyneside Council and the borough’s MPs on a the bid to relocate its internationally renowned education facilities to the town centre.
Chiefs have stressed the campus relocation project is very much in its infancy, and forms part of a multi-million-pound bid to access funding from Government.
The move would create state-of-the-art new facilities for students, and help breath new life into the struggling town centre, which has been hit by successive store closures in recent years.
It has the support of the North East LEP, the North East Chamber of Commerce and various local businesses.
Dr Lindsey Whiterod CBE, chief executive of Tyne Coast College, of which South Tyneside College is part, said: “It has been an ambition of the college and its board to create a new centre for learning and education for our students that meets the needs of the 21st century and addresses the emerging trends in the ways we now learn.
"This move recognises the ageing nature of our existing buildings and facilities and the need to move with the businesses we serve and supply.”
She added: “Together with our council partners we have made the very best of that opportunity to create new centres of excellence for learning which in turn will support the revitalisation of South Shields’ high street.”
The project is expected to bring thousands of students into the heart of the town centre, creating significant local economic impact and acting as a catalyst to regenerate other parts of the borough.
It would also see the college returning to its roots, having begun as the old marine school in Ocean Road, now The Kirkpatrick bar.
Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Tracey Dixon said: “We recognised some time ago that for our town centres to survive, and indeed thrive, they need to evolve into places where people want to live, work and visit.
"Moving the college campus will mean more people spending time and money in South Shields town centre - using services and supporting businesses to create a sustainable future.”
She added: “The potential project meets a number of the council’s key priorities; creating the conditions for recovery and investment, supporting town centres, and investing in our natural and built environment.
“We would hope that any development complements cultural venues such as The Word and the Customs House and capitalises on new assets like our state-of-the-art transport interchange.”
Any development will need significant investment and the college and council are seeking to attract Government funding from both Department for Education Capital Transformation Funding and the £4.8billion Levelling Up Fund.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is championing the project in Parliament.
“I hope that our residents will be able to share a vision for our college students and staff, not only to benefit from the best possible facilities for their future learning, but also to help regenerate our town centre by bringing learning spaces and student accommodation right into the heart of our town,” she said.
“This increased footfall will not only add vibrancy but will aid inward investment benefitting the local economy. I will continue to do what I can to help and support this bid.”
She added: “This is a very exciting prospect for our much-loved college, and I have been doing everything I can to support its passage through the funding process.”
The college, council and MP said they share a collective ambition to develop a new campus in South Shields town centre, but plans are in their infancy.
A masterplan will be brought forward in due course with full consultation on detailed options.
The project has also received the support of Jarrow MP Kate Osborne.
“Although not in my constituency of Jarrow, I share the views of Tyne Coast College, South Tyneside Council and Emma Lewell-Buck MP on the prospect of relocating the college to the town centre of South Shields,” she said.