A positive reaction greeted plans for a University Technical College at a public exhibition about the scheme this week in Newhaven.
More than 60 people visited the event at Denton Island Community Centre to see artist’s impressions, find out more about the college and speak to some of its backers.
Residents were in favour of the college, but raised some concerns about retaining more original features of the buildings and pointed out Newhaven had been promised regeneration before, but that promises were not always kept.
At the exhibition were representatives from Kier, which is building the college, and some of the backers, including the Aldridge Foundation, Lewes District Council and the University of Brighton.
A spokesperson for the Aldridge Foundation said: “Over 60 people came to see the plans outlined by Kier, including local residents, potential parents, local employers and those interested in the development plans.
“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we are delighted to have made contact with people who have asked to be kept informed of progress and also to give businesses opportunities to input into the engineering focused curriculum.”
Director of science at the University of Brighton, Andrew Lloyd, explained the college would give students an ideal spring board for apprentice based work or university.
He said the college day would run from 8.30am to 5pm, designed to mimic a normal working day, and meant homework was completed while on campus.
The college is also seeking partnerships with organisations such as Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club and the South Downs National Park.
The plans involve linking the marine workshops and the carpenters workshop with a modern building.
Senior design manager for Kier, Darren Howe, said the marine workshops had been raised half a storey to make room for the necessary facilities for the college. This has included the loss of the pitched roof.
He explained it was a balancing act: retaining as much of the original features as possible while ensuring the college is fit for purpose.
There will be improved insulation and photo voltaic panels on the roof.
The buildings were described as being in very poor condition, with parts needing to be replaced.
Planning permission will be sought in April. If approved construction could begin in August.
Maria Lambert, 48, from Avis Road, Denton, said: “I think it’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
“Both my husband Rod and I grew up in Newhaven and we have seen it very sadly deteriorate over the years. It’s gone from a thriving town to a ghost town. It’s great to see something positive happening.”
Jeannette Downey, 79, of Norton Terrace, Eastside, said the last time the buildings were in use was about 50 years ago.
She said: “We have had promises before and then it falls flat. It will tidy the place up.”
And Joanna Beale, 45, from Norton Terrace, said she would have liked more original features retained.
She said: “I am hoping it will definitely go ahead as we have been disappointed over the last few years.
“It’s quite sad because Newhaven town is so run down. It’s like the town is dieing.”
And Jo Pettitt, 41, from Lewes Road, added: “I think it’s fantastic. It’s a fitting legacy for this building. They have retained a lot of the original character of the building.”