College base for business hub

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A new business hub is set to be created near Ponteland to open early next year.

Northumberland College has secured a £60,000 grant to develop a rural enterprise centre at its Kirkley Hall campus.

The facility will be based in the courtyard area of the main listed building and will pilot a new approach to renting small office and flexible workshop space to micro-businesses. There will also be access to rural enterprise support services.

The project is expected to create six full-time jobs and will target budding entrepreneurs aged between 16 and 24 to help them into self-employment. It will also sustain existing local businesses.

Planning permission has been granted and the Kirkley Hall Enterprise Hub is due to become operational by February.

College Principal and Chief Executive Marcus Clinton said: “The approval of the planning application is a major step forward for the project and we are excited about turning the plans into reality.

“As a college we are passionate about enterprise and at every opportunity engaging with and supporting employers and businesses.

“Forging these links and being part of the hub network will further the exciting developments at our Kirkley Hall campus, which has been a centre for enterprise, with many students getting involved in real work projects, such as our zoological gardens and outdoor activity centre.

“Being able to further support our students and wider budding entrepreneurs to start a business is immensely exciting and everything the college should be about.”

Funding was provided through the Enterprise Hubs programme of the North East Rural Growth Network, which is led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North East Farming and Rural Advisory Network.

Chairman of the farming and advisory network Anthony Braithwaite said: “It is most pleasing to see Northumberland College place rural enterprise development at the heart of its exciting new investment plans for its Kirkley Hall campus.

“The campus, with links to Newcastle University, is a very important rural learning centre for the North East. These flexible work spaces will give students and graduates aspiring to start a business a range of options, plus access to business start-up support services.”

The campus already provides community events, training, activities, zoological gardens, a farm, equestrian centre, cafe and conference venue.

Northumberland County Council Policy Board Member for Planning, Housing and Regeneration Allan Hepple said: “I am delighted to see yet another enterprise hub get under way in the county.”