The challenge

City and Islington College operated over 13 sites across the boroughs of Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.  The estate had been neglected under previous Local Authority control and consisted of seven Victorian London School Board properties, three poorly built late 1950s schools and a number of early 19th century buildings. The experience for students was poor. Buckets were used to catch drips from the roofs, rooms were the wrong size, windows were draughty and the heating broke down. The 1950s buildings had ventilation problems; lighting was often inadequate, drains flooded and many toilets were very unpleasant.

The cost of running the estate was high and the utilisation of space was very inefficient. In 1999 under the Principalship of Tom Jupp and Chairmanship of Jack Morris the College had raised just over £25m towards their ambitions through the sale of a major site near the City of London.  But the total cost or replacing or refurbishing all 35,000m2 had risen to £50m and the College faced the possibility of a two tier estate. The College was blessed with a Governing Body that was not daunted by the challenge it faced but determined to create the best learning environments in FE.

The solution

By working closely with the Principal, external advisors, governors and senior civil servants in the DFe and the then LSC, Peter Marsh developed a revised accommodation strategy (‘Building a Better College’) that successfully levered an additional £14m from the LSC to part fund works to a new 6th Form College at the Angel, Islington, a new Centre for Lifelong Learning at Finsbury Park and a complete remodelling of the College’s Centre for Businss Arts and Technology at Camden Road, Holloway.  The 6th Form location was switched from Finsbury Park to the Angel, almost as a condition of funding; this was some feat as the building still opened on time and on budget despite this fundamental shift in brief at stage D of the design process.

This plan was costed at £50 million in 2001 and the final £64 million spend by 2006 was made possible because of rapidly rising property values reflected in the disposal of the old sites. By carefully phasing the site sales with the letting of each building contract the college was able to lever substantial additional benefits into the programme, particularly in ICT and the replacement of tired furniture and equipment.

Tendering and building was a huge task because much of the work had to proceed simultaneously so that it could be completed in a reasonable time scale. The Capital Projects Team that was led by Peter managed and accounted for the whole operation from 2000 onwards. The team comprised 13 people at the height of the programme in 2003/04; in addition to the building and fit out the team organised 20 separate moves of staff and equipment.  The complex process of site sales and acquisition involved the purchase of a church, a site designated for a hotel and the conversion of several London School Board buildings into smart new apartments. To maximise the value to the College Peter led the appointment of the design teams for the residentail conversions and secured planning permission for them prior to sale.

The projects included

Sixth Form College completed and opened September 2003, Architects: van Heyningen and Haward, Main contractor: Norwest Holst 8,500m2

Centre for Lifelong Learning completed and opened January 2004, Architects: Wilkinson Eyre, Main contractor: Geoffrey Osborne Ltd, 7,400m2

Centre for Applied Sciences completed 2004, Architects: Gollifer Langston Associates, Main contractor: Norwest Holst, 4,100m2

Centre for Business, Arts and Technology completed 2005, Architects: Wilkinson Eyre, Main contractor: William Verry, 10,500m2

Centre for Health, Social and Child Care, & administrative headquarters, partly refurbished 2004, 4,500m2

The result

This was the most ambitious accommodation programme in the history of further education at that time. The overall size of the estate went from 38,000 square metres to 35,000 square metres whilst accommodating growth in student numbers. The final capital cost was £64 million. Over £50million of this was paid for by the college itself from site sale proceeds with no burden of debt afterwards and no loss of quality and direction for students during the period of redevelopment.

The buildings set new design standards on incredibly tight budgets and were recognised by the Civic Trust Awards, the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Awards, the American Institute of Architects Awards plus the Islington Society Architecture & Conservation Award.  The creation of the 5 new centres on 4 sites, all part of one amazing College, was both a physical and cultural change programme. The consolidation and focusing the curriculum on each site has since enabled the college, under the leadership of Frank McLoughlin, to build communities of excellent teaching practice that have subsequently been recognised in Outstanding Ofsted grades and the Queens Anniversay Prize.

Peter brings a rare combination of financial astuteness, a passion for great design and a deep insight into the ways in which well-planned space can enhance learning. His drive and enterprise were fundamental to the successful completion of what was the most ambitious property strategy undertaken in the FE sector at the time.

Jack Morris OBE, Chairman, Business Design Centre Group Ltd

Peter and I worked very closely together throughout the 2000-2005 period when he led the major transformation of the College’s estate. The complexity of the funding, space planning and financial modelling that underpinned the delivery of these projects was seriously impressive.   What really stood out for me was the vision and passion with which he delivered each project, and the way all the teams who worked for him bought into that vision, and in doing so, created a set of remarkable learning environments.

Frank McLoughlin CBE, Principal, City & Islington College

This example of part-refurbishment, part-rebuild is an exemplary case of blending old and new. But it is also a perfect example of an education project doing so much to kick-start the urban regeneration of the area in which it sits.

Judging Panel, Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Awards, 2004

The popularity of the building and its welcoming character are an excellent example of public buildings reinforcing both a community and urban environment.

Judging Panel, Civic Trust Awards

Peter Marsh (2000-06) took on the task of planning and managing the whole rebuilding programme.  Peter combined financial and management skills with a passionate understanding and commitment to the role accommodation could play in the college’s educational mission.

Tom Jupp (Principal 1993-2001) & Andrew Morris (Former College Governor)

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