Capture13A MIDDLESBROUGH park’s partnership with one of UK’s leading land-based colleges is entering an exciting new phase.

Key buildings at Stewart Park have now been transferred to Askham Bryan College which is developing a new education centre at the site.

The York-based college is creating a teaching base and training areas in the park’s Grade 2-listed Central Lodge and some of the adjacent buildings.

The College team will take responsibility the Visitors Centre and café, further enhancing the existing facilities for visitors.

When fully up and running, the college will help around 400 16- to 19-year-olds each year achieve nationally recognised qualifications in horticulture, forestry and arboriculture, – countryside management and animal husbandry.

The development will boost local employability, helping to develop small businesses and adding to the town’s economic vitality.

The community-focused facility will also enhance the park’s existing facilities, giving mature students access to part-time and community-based education.

Askham Bryan College has been earmarked £3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to transform these buildings into this exciting  education facility.

The college has received the boost of confirmation of an initial £155,000 HLF award towards the development of the plans, and a bid to the HLF for these funds, to restore the Central Lodge building and its surrounds.

Plans to create state of the art lecture rooms, a learning resource centre, animal handling facility, workshops and a reception area are all now under way.

Stewart Park will remain completely accessible to the public, its Green Flag award-winning green spaces continuing to be managed by Council officers.

Opening hours – including for the visitor centre and café – remain the same and key events such as the Cleveland Show, Parkrun and Farmers’ Markets will continue.

Councillor Tracy Harvey, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Environment, said: “Stewart Park is a true jewel in Middlesbrough’s crown, and this important partnership with Askham Bryan opens up an exciting new chapter in its history.

“The College base is already breathing new life into the park, securing its long-term future and bringing with it the priceless benefits of vocational training, job creation and economic regeneration.

“The announcement of the HLF award is yet more great news, and will ensure the history and the heritage of the buildings help to inspire a sense of ambition and aspiration in both students and the community as a whole.”

Stewart Park has been transformed over the last few years, by a Parks for People lottery grant of £4.4 million from the BIG and HLF lottery funds which, matched by £1.7 million from Middlesbrough Council, has enabled the restoration of the historic landscape and listed estate buildings, including the provision of a new Visitor Centre. A new £300,000 play area was also added to complete the park facilities.

Through its Parks for People programme, HLF and the Big Lottery Fund have invested more than £700 million to revitalise around 700 parks across the UK, including £4.4 million to Stewart Park. In June, HLF published State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to Risk? highlighting the challenges facing public parks in light of pressures on local authority budgets and the need for parks to look to diversify income streams in order to safeguard their future.

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “This is a really innovative project which makes effective use of a historic building and its location to deliver a sustainable enterprise with far-reaching educational and economic benefits.

“This money will provide the financial leg-up this important site needs to succeed.”