A £4.5million expansion to Kingston Maurward College is to go ahead.

The university hub and rural business centre is part of the college plan to diversify on the campus – a process which has already included the creation of the Dorset Studio School and a £3.3m animal sciences building.

The new building, which will be close to Stinsford Farmhouse, is to be part funded by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Changes to the original design have been made during the consultation process in response to concerns about the effect on the conservation area.

Historic England dropped its initial objection but is still critical of some design aspects: “The parking bays, access road, and amenity areas are still more akin to a business park than a farmstead. We would prefer car parking to be accommodated at the rear of the proposed building, allowing the area to the front to adopt the character of an informal paddock. This would be more appropriate to the character and appearance of the conservation area, and the site’s role as the gateway to the registered parkland,” said the conservation body.

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The centre will provide around 875 sq m of teaching, office and collaborative space together with room for small businesses.

The site is on the western edge of the college estate within a cluster of buildings known as Stinsford Farm, directly north of the Stinsford Village and east of Church Lane.

The new centre will be built between the existing ‘blue barn’ and the farmhouse and has been designed as a two storey building which will appear as a single storey to the south and two storeys from the north.

Student learning areas will mainly on the first floor with a separate student entrance on the south side of the building. A second entrance at ground floor level (north side) will be used by the public and for those involved in the small business units.

It will mainly be used by 18+ students undertaking university level studies and will feature a mixture of teaching spaces, open areas for flexible learning and break out spaces, together with a formal lecture theatre and a cafe which will open out onto its own terrace.

Dorset Echo: The site as it looks nowThe site as it looks now

Half of the block will be used for agribusinesses engaged in the farming industry with the idea of offering support for start-up businesses. This will be in the form of dedicated business 'incubation units' close to the entrance on the ground floor.

The new centre, which has been dubbed by principal Luke Rake as “a potential game-changer for the local student and business community”, could be open by September next year.