RIBA: Building Knowledge - Follow us on Twitter LinkedIn

Lancaster and Morcambe College

1.0 Summary

The redevelopment of Lancaster and Morecambe College included the refurbishment and remodelling of the existing buildings, the creation of a new Construction and Engineering Centre and landscaping. The College caters to 1,200 full-time students aged 16-18, 400 adult learners and 130 higher education students, all studying a range of vocational courses from Construction to Hair and Beauty. The College primarily provides vocational courses and apprenticeships, collaborating with a range of employers including the NHS and EDF Energy.

“Our fabulous facilities are at the cutting edge of training provision and we continue to invest in additional features and improvements year after year. This gives our students the very best environment in which to work, as well as providing a rich source of activities and resources for our local community.” Peter France Director of Finance and Resources

  • To improve facilities in order to improve the quality of the students’ learning environment
  • Replace dilapidated buildings on campus
  • The creation of a new state of the art Construction and Engineering Centre

The redevelopment of the campus has been phased to include:

  • Phase 1: Refurbishment of The Hexagon (LRC), a new Block F to house the Construction Centre, the Business and Conference Centre and landscaping
  • Phase 2:  Refurbishment of Block A, and the ground, first and second level of Block C
  • The Master Plan includes an additional three phases for future development

Project Facts

  • Site Area: 8.31 hectares
  • Overall budget: £31m
  • Construction cost: £14m
  • Start on site: 2012
  • Completion:  Phase 1 complete 2014 and Phase 2 complete 2013
  • Procurement method: Traditional and D&B contract


2.0 Description and Information


The Lancaster and Morecambe College campus is situated on the A589, mid-way between the city and town, on a large, green site and comprises a number of buildings ranging in age – built from the 1950s to the 2000s. Over this period, development has largely been opportunistic. Meaning that as space has been needed, it has been created or adjusted to meet the demands of a changing curriculum and not benefitted from a holistic approach. Consequentially, the quality of the College environment has suffered, as it has a lack of cohesive design and variation of architectural style between the buildings.

The College offers diverse employment focused courses. Lancaster and Morecambe College caters for over 1,700 full-time students. In addition, 400 apprentices are trained annually in a variety of subjects from Construction to Hair and Beauty.

The areas local to Lancaster and Morecambe have seen a growth in the number of local further education providers and sixth forms; the College strives in providing an outstanding student experience fulfilling vocational, personal and employment goals, offering a unique experience for learners.

The vision of the College is to be a beacon of vocational excellence leading to higher education and to employment.

Purpose of the Project

The key purpose of the project was to provide an outstanding learning experience for students, to provide real-work learning environments – such as hair salons and construction warehouses – through improved facilities and to create a sense of individuality. This would be achieved by replacing and updating the existing buildings on site which were no longer fit for purpose.

The College was visionary and thorough in its thinking, recognising the need to address the major building condition challenges it faced, and it embarked upon the development of a strategic approach to overhaul the campus, which resulted in the development of the Master Plan.

The following were key factors the project considered:

  • Devise a framework to enable the College to adapt to changes in teaching and learning, IT infrastructure, curriculum offer and collaboration with partner institutions
  • Improve the quality of space by replacing or remodelling buildings
  • Reduce floor area
  • Improve the zoning of accommodation
  • Segregate vehicles and pedestrians
  • Provide good quality external spaces
  • Improve the quality of the built environment
  • Develop a long-term sustainable site in terms of use of energy, building and site maintenance
  • Respond to the opportunities and constraints arising from the new, adjacent, M6 Link Road.

The College sought to address the impact of the planned new M6 Link Road, aiming to turn it into an advantage rather than a loss.

The new M6 Link Road proposal entailed the College losing part of its site, requiring the relocation of buildings and the loss of significant on-site car parking facilities (although these would later be replaced in a land swap arrangement with the County Council). Although the road development created major disruption, it also provided an opportunity for the College to incorporate the work into improving the quality of the buildings and site in a managed and progressive manner.

In 2009, the College began the process of planning a redevelopment of the campus and the eventual work undertaken was extensive, comprising refurbishment and remodeling of existing buildings (Blocks A, C, D, H and S), the erection of a new Construction and Engineering Centre (Block F) and extensive landscaping.

The project objectives identified were to enhance facilities in order to improve the quality of the students’ learning environment and to replace ageing buildings on campus.

A Master Plan (Property Strategy) was devised for the redevelopment, which was phased as follows:

  • Phase 1 – refurbishment and extension of an existing building to create a new Student and Learning Centre (The Hexagon), a new build Construction and Engineering Centre (Block F) and extensive landscaping
  • Phase 2 – refurbishment of the ground, first and second floors of Block C and further landscaping
  • An additional three phases of future development

Concurrently with Phase 1, plans were drawn up for the refurbishment of the ground floor of Block D to create a new Business and Conference Centre.


Works began in 2012, the funding and timescale has been beneficial to the overall delivery of the Master Plan. In the 3 years since the Master Plan was formed, Phase 1 and 2 are complete. The estimated cost of the Master Plan is £31m and currently the project has cost £14m. At this stage, the project is £7m under budget.

The total £14m spent was used to construct Phase 1 and 2. Of this total, £4m was funded from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) via two applications. The first funding, Enhanced Renewal Grant 2 (ERG2), went towards Phase 1. The second, ERG3, was put towards Phase 2.

The remainder was provided by the College through cash reserves. It was more feasible to carry out the work in phases, which has helped in granting funding application.


The site occupies 8.31 hectares of green land, which encompasses 10 Blocks. Due to the development of the campus over six decades, the buildings varied considerably in scale and height, with the seven-storey Block C being dominant. Additionally, subject teaching areas within the College were poorly distributed across the 10 Blocks.

Phase 1; the refurbishment and extension of Block H (The Hexagon) which provides a flexible space for students to use socially or for private study. Also included was the new Construction and Engineering Centre (Block F), the extension for the College entrance located at the front of the Sports Centre (Block S), and landscaping. The Construction and Engineering Centre replaced an outdated, steel-portal frame structure. The new Block F, constructed of brick and rainscreen cladding secured to a steel frame, now conforms to the latest industry specification requirements.

Phase 2; the refurbishment of Block A, demolition of the link between Block A and B, the refurbishment of the ground, first and second floors of Block C, and further landscaping; a total refurbished area of 4,711m2.

The ground level of Block C is now a relaxed open plan café, shop and game area for students to relax and socialise. The demolition of the link between Block A and B has supplied a primary route to the heart of the campus, and made circulation through internal and external areas easier.

Phases 1 and 2 have started to bring a sense of character to the College campus through material choices. The reoccurring theme of Red Cedar cladding, Trespa rainscreen grey cladding, grey roofing and aluminum window frames are starting to show increased connectivity across the whole campus.

The redevelopment has improved the primary and secondary routes. For example, the external paving patterns are linear to correlate with the primary routes suggested in the Master Plan (these routes can be seen by the red arrows in the diagram below).

There are campus maps and clear signage around the site, making navigation easier for visitors who are unfamiliar with the site. It has also improved pedestrian routes from Torrisholme Road and the A589 entrance.


3.0 Story of the Project

Strategic Plan and Property Strategy

The College’s strategic plan aims at providing vocational education and training to support local businesses and to recognise and nurture entrepreneurial talent. In order to achieve this, the College identified the need to enhance the student experience by providing the best possible working environment.

The M6 Link Road was granted full approval in 2013, in which works began in 2014 and are due to finish in summer 2016. This significantly impacts the College as it uses part of the site as well as creating sound pollution – which could ultimately affect students learning.

The Strategic Plan also identified the following key strategies specific to the built environment:

  • Invest in facilities and resources that are attractive to students, meet industry standards and are supported by up-to-date technology
  • Continue to drive the College commitment to use its resources in a sustainable and socially responsible way

The Business Case and Securing Funding

The regeneration of the campus buildings and site wide improvements were seen as imperative for the College to include addressing the impact of the construction of the M6 Link Road, which is seen as essential to the growth of the local and regional economy.

The work undertaken by the College in conjunction with their design team was successful in securing part funding for the project and the College prudently undertook not to borrow funds, but to fund the remainder of the project from its own capital reserves. The College therefore remains financially stable with the capability to provide resources to fund key priorities in the future.

The emphasis was to:

  • Create greater site legibility and cohesion to ensure a visual language and across the diverse range of buildings – through a consistency of material choice, the relocation and grouping of departments and improved pedestrian routes
  • Improve the College’s sustainability by:
    – Reducing long term maintenance and energy costs (Block A achieved the BREEAM ‘Very Good’ as      a refurbished building and Block F achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’ as a new build)
    –  Improving insulation to the fabric of the refurbished buildings
    –  Replacing out of date heating and lighting systems
  • Prepare the way for new methods of teaching and learning by providing the necessary ICT infrastructure – through the WiFi network, increased use of mobile technologies and the use of fixed technologies for specialist applications

Formulating the business case and the process of securing funding was incorporated into the Master Plan, which was intended to be a live document to be tested, reviewed and renewed as circumstances dictated and funding allowed.

The Master Plan was considered to be a sustainable design solution for the redevelopment of the College buildings. It would allow the College to change the delivery of aspects as factors, such as time scale and funding, changed with time. As a result of the planned M6 Link Road passing through the site, the College gained compensation. This was put towards the redevelopment works included in Phase 1 and groundwork improvements.

Appointing a Consultant Team

Ellis Williams Architects (EWA) were appointed, following a tendering process, for the feasibility and contract tender and were retained as novated Architects on Phase 1. EWA’s concept of a phased redevelopment, to assist with funding issues and with the continued smooth operation of the business of the College, was approved and implemented. The development of Phases 1 and 2 were the results of the Masterplan.

For Phase 1, the consultant team was appointed through the North West Construction Hub framework. A single appointment was made that encompassed Project Management, Architect, Engineering Services, Cost Consultant and CDM Coordinator.

Phase 2 was procured under a traditional contract led by EWA.

Delivery Team

  • Architect: Ellis Williams Architects
  • Project Manager: In-house team
  • Contractor phase 1: Kier Construction
  • Contractor phase 2: Warden
  • Cost Consultants: Turner and Townsend

Teaching and Learning Objectives

The College’s vocational focus necessitates the need for real work-environments and to reflect the working condition students will encounter in the work place. EWA were asked to ensure that the campus would meet these criteria, along with formal learning spaces, and that works could be delivered in an economically viable phased development.

After EWA evaluated the site layout, circulation, visibility, access and key point of access to the site, the main constraints were developed. The Master Plan identified ways of overcoming these challenges whilst optimising opportunities.

Departments are now grouped together in the site. For example, Administration can be found on the first and second floors of Block C, rather than spread across several Blocks.

The Catering department was divorced from the College refectory. The development has brought the two together on the ground floor of Block C, with an additional student shop.

Classroom spaces have been segregated from workshop spaces. This prevents students from being distracted from noise levels that are a result of certain courses, such as Carpentry and Joinery.

Briefing and Design Development

The College was aware of the deficiencies in the site and its buildings. Its lead consultants, EWA, carried out extensive research and a comprehensive site analysis to determine the best possible design solutions and were able to advise the College as to how best to improve and enhance them.

The existing site had a clear development area, defined by the rectangle between the front and rear entrances. The buildings had developed around a major courtyard (as shown in the site plan), which contains The Hexagon and a secondary courtyard between Block C and the remainder of the built estate. EWA realised the potential of the existing rectangular form and their plans enhanced this and maximised the College’s resources.

The College’s Strategic Plan aims to provide vocational education and training to support local businesses and to recognise and nurture entrepreneurial talent. The College wished to enhance the student experience by providing the best possible studying and working environment. They also sought to address the impact of the construction of the M6 Link Road.

The College’s Strategic Plan sets out the following core values:

  • Acting with integrity
  • Realising potential
  • Making a positive difference
  • Creating a sense of belonging and personal wellbeing
  • Working together

As the development has progressed, a good relationship has been formed between the College and EWA throughout the project, especially within the internal working groups; the core values identified within the plan definitely informed the consultation process, securing key stakeholders buy-in and commitment.

These values all have relevance in the development of the built estate and the Master Plan seeks to incorporate them as a thread running through the entire project.


Management Process and Project Reviews

The College appointed an in-house Project Management Team to deliver the Master Plan.

The Finance Director – responsible for the Estates department of the College – acted as the College’s lead and he, together with the College’s in-house Project Management Team, worked closely with the College’s users. The College’s Project Management Team and the EWA Design Team met regularly throughout the project and reported to the Capital Project Committee, which was set up to oversee the governance of the project. The Committee was chaired by a governor (an architect) and included members of the Senior Management Team and the Governing Body. This Committee provided a key link between the Governing Body and the College’s internal teams which ensured coherent, informed and timely decision making.

In addition to the Project Review Meetings and meetings of the Capital Project Committee, the College also worked in partnership with employers and the Chamber of Commerce.

Procurement Strategy

The deliberate phasing of the Master Plan has enabled the College to vary procurement method to suit each project. The original design concept would have led to a two stage design and Build.

For Phase 1, in order to deliver the project within the tight timescales demanded by the funding bodies, the North West Construction Hub framework was employed to procure the contractor that was appointed soon after the planning application was submitted.

The contractor was appointed using a two stage Design and Build contract (JCT 98) which allowed the contractor to work with the project team to develop the design and to consider project issues before agreeing the final contract costs and commencing work on site.

Construction on Site

The phasing throughout construction work has permitted the College to remain open, rather than having to relocate, and the whole process has been managed by the College’s Project Management Team, in conjunction with the contractor, so that the inconvenience to users has been kept to a minimum and users have been kept safe.

The approval of the M6 Link Road has resulted in additional construction on site and, whilst the road and pedestrian access from the rear entrance has not been compromised during construction, it has resulted in the loss of pedestrian access from a footpath by Block E which led to the A589. This has been overcome by enhancing primary and secondary circulation routes around the campus.

The construction of the road has also resulted in the temporary loss of accommodation and sports facilities.

4.0 Lessons Learnt

Teaching and Learning

The complete works has transformed the campus into an exciting 21st Century site. The original objectives set out by the Master Plan have been met, making it a successful project.

The drive for vocational education has been delivered by creating real-work environments such as the construction centre, the hair and beauty salons and the business and conference centre. Local sixth forms, which offer similar courses, cannot provide such a unique environment or deliver such a rich student experience.

The phases completed so far have enhanced how staff, students and visitors use the different spaces within the College. Making the Student Learning Centre (The Hexagon) a focal point has promoted self-learning and offered a supportive environment. The open space offers a setting for students to work together with a variety of learning resources readily available in one place. A variety of flexible learning spaces, available to students, has been created throughout the College buildings.

The College’s aim to be a beacon of vocational excellence leading to higher education and to employment is on course and it is now rated in the top 10% of vocational colleges in the country, with strong success rates and close links to over seven hundred businesses throughout the region. Formal classroom space has also been upgraded and the new Construction and Engineering Centre (Block F) has improved the way in which courses are delivered.

The demolition of the link building between Blocks A and B has allowed a primary route to the heart of the campus – the quadrangle surrounding The Hexagon – and made for easier circulation through internal and external areas.

The Business and Conference Centre is available for local business use, with the added benefit of creating awareness of the College and promoting future partnerships. The strategic aim of making a positive contribution to the local community is being implemented by relocating College services which are open to the public, such as the hair and beauty salons and the dog grooming parlour, to prominent positions at ground level. Access is improved from both entrances to the College and the flow of people is directed through the centre of the campus.

Students, staff and the local community are enjoying the improved College environment and careful project planning throughout the phases has minimised disruption to teaching and has kept student satisfaction high.

Design, Architecture and Quality

Both Phases have brought a sense of character to the College campus through coherent material choices. The reoccurring theme of red cedar cladding, Trespa Rainscreen grey cladding, grey roofing and aluminium window frames have brought a sense of increased connectivity across the whole site.

Some of the original aims set out in the Master Plan were:

  • Connectivity
    The original College buildings were built over the course of the previous six decades and the result was a variety of architectural styles. As development has progressed, the design of the site has become more consistent through the use of coherent materials, building form and landscaping.
  • Dynamic Context
    The pedestrian route from the rear entrance was unclear and is now much improved due to the demolition of a link building between Blocks A and B – allowing for easier access to the heart of the College.
  • A new face for the College presenting to the M6 Link Road
    The new build Construction and Engineering Centre and the refurbishment of other buildings, together with the new car park, currently under construction, will present a modern and dynamic front to the M6 Link Road currently under construction.The EWA proposal of a phased redevelopment allowed for easier access to available funding and, following the development of the Master Plan, funding applications were successful. The patience shown by the College in seeking to obtain funding over a period of several years has been beneficial both architecturally and financially.


Management and Process

The College had a clear idea of how they wished their campus, staff and students to be managed and operated during construction works. Taking on the Project Management role allowed them to provide campus cohesion through improved facilities, and has maintained the focus of the project objectives. Now there is a greater level of integration with students, local businesses and the community.

The Project management team evolved as the Master Plan began to be implemented, with the Architect retaining a consistent role throughout.

Top Tips

Lancaster and Morecambe College put their success of the project down to five key aspects:

  • A strong internal management and consultation process informed by the core values of the College and the principles outlined in the Master Plan
  • Phasing the project to eliminate the need for relocation and to maximise grant funding to avoid cash flow problems
  • Being adaptable in terms of seeking funding and taking advantage of local opportunities
  • Being flexible about the use of space during construction
  • The retention of significant capital reserves and the avoidance of borrowing – resulting in a more secure future for the College

What are you most proud of about the finished building?

“Providing students and staff with inspiring facilities within budget and timescales.”

Peter France
Director of Finance and Resources
The College is most proud of the construction of The Hexagon Student Learning Centre, which has made the student journey, from enrolment to final results day, as successful, enjoyable and smooth as possible. The Hexagon is located in the heart of the campus and contributes to the formation of a strong College community.