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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Underground stream fails to sink £5m Carlisle arts complex

Builders had to do some quick thinking after an underground stream was discovered under the site of a new development.

Carlisle College arts centre photo
The new arts centre is taking shape

Plans to clear the hurdle had to be drawn up as construction crews laid the foundations for the £5.3 million digital arts centre at Carlisle College.

But a solution was found and college chiefs are confident the new complex, which will transform what was a derelict pocket of the city centre, will open in September as planned.

Principal Moira Tattersall briefed Carlisle MP John Stevenson on the project’s progress while both got their first glimpse inside the building during work.

Both were impressed by what’s taking shape.

Mrs Tattersall said: “It’s fantastic to see it coming together. You can envisage the rooms now.

“We’re pleased with the work on the programme. We have had to do some creative stuff around the foundations and they are working hard to make up some of the lost time.

“Everybody is confident we will make up that time and be ready to open in September.”

The discovery of the underground stream at Swifts Mews, where the new arts centre is being built, is the second of its kind on the Carlisle College campus.

During the catastrophic Carlisle floods of 2005, one was discovered at the other end of the site, which backed up into a boiler house.

Explaining how engineers overcame potential problems caused by the underground stream, Mrs Tattersall said: “They have created a bridge arrangement to make sure the foundations were properly in place and do not compromise the building.”

The arts centre, on Strand Road, will house further education students who currently share space with those from the University of Cumbria at its Brampton Road site.

As well as the theatre space, features will include performance rehearsal areas, music recording and rehearsal booths and media editing suites.

There will also be a studio and gallery space to showcase the work of up-and-coming artists and spaces where new businesses could be launched from.

Mrs Tattersall was pleased to be able to help brief the MP, who played a part in making the college’s case to secure money from the Skills Funding Agency to make the centre happen.

She added: “He takes a great deal of interest in skills and sees it as part of economic growth.

“The centre will include some cutting-edge technology providing a real crucible of growth particularly for small enterprises that can become big enterprises.”

Mr Stevenson described the college as one of Carlisle’s outstanding successes and said he’s impressed by its development and growth.

“They have done extremely well. I’m really encouraged by what they’re doing. The college is trying to get the skills base in the city widened by the facilities they are building,” he added.

“It’s also nice to see construction in the city. It sends a positive message, demonstrating increasing confidence in the local economy and a local education establishment.”

As well as the arts centre, the college is developing the old St Paul’s Hall next to Swifts Mews into a new business centre as part of a separate £2m programme that also includes an upgrade of its motor workshops and construction training department. Work on those schemes is due to start by the summer.

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