A COLLEGE’S plans for a third campus in a half-empty shopping centre will ‘re-invigorate’ the high street and marks an ‘exciting new chapter’ for the town.

Kendal College submitted proposals to change the use of parts of the Westmorland Shopping Centre from commercial to a learning facility earlier this year to keep up with the increased demand for its courses.

Under the scheme, the upper mall will eventually become a third campus for up to 400 students, with a lecture theatre, science labs, IT and media spaces, and conference rooms. A large, open-plan atrium would support the college’s existing relationships with community projects, festivals and events.

If the development goes ahead, shops and stores will be consolidated on the lower floor.

The existing lower mall stores, the Indoor Market Hall and car parking, will be unaffected.

The college aims to have some classes from the centre in January and full occupation of the upper levels as a standalone college campus from late 2022.

And the project has been warmly welcomed by businesses and community leaders.

Mayor of Kendal councillor Douglas Rathbone said the plans were ‘extremely positive’.

“It’s extremely positive for the centre of Kendal,” he said.

“Particularly with the existing pressures on town centres across the country.

“It also shows the offer that Kendal College gives is so positive that they need to expand in this way.

“It will hopefully reinvigorate the town centre and it’s something to be welcomed.”

Peter Brendling, co-owner of The Bakehouse, said he was in favour of the plans.

“It should certainly help local businesses having students around,” he said.

“And it will be good for the shopping centre because it doesn’t seem to be doing that well.

“In general, I’m all in favour of it and if it brings more people into the town centre then it’s all good.”

MP Tim Farron also welcomed the news.

“Kendal College has an amazing track record of giving young people the skills to be the very best that they can be and so I’m delighted that they have exciting new plans for a new campus at Westmorland Shopping Centre," he said.

“After the awful past 18 months that our young people have endured in the pandemic, it’s really good to hear that the college are working hard to bring them more opportunities.”

The move comes as student numbers continue to grow substantially, with the college’s campuses at Milnthorpe Road and Beezon Road now at capacity.

Between 2001 and 2021 full-time learners aged 16-18 have increased from 405 to more than 1,300.

Last year, Kendal College delivered courses to more than 4,000 students, including full-time learners, adults studying professional and recreational courses, apprentices, and students following degree-level programmes.

Kendal College Principal, Kelvin Nash said: “The college’s use of the Westmorland Shopping Centre as a third campus would cement the college’s place in the heart of the town and its community, contributing much to the social and economic development of Kendal and surrounding areas.”

Kendal College is working with Praxis Real Estate Management, who own the shopping centre, on the reconfiguration plans.

Ilan Goldman, senior asset manager for Praxis Real Estate, said: “The commitment from Kendal College and South Lakeland District Council to transforming and rejuvenating their town centre is commendable. The student and staff population that would be housed at The Westmorland Centre are exactly the tonic the cafés, restaurants and shops of Kendal are looking for as we emerge from COVID. We believe this partnership will become a fantastic case study in how town centres can adapt and thrive.

"Introducing a young, diverse and sizeable student and teacher population to the heart of Kendal will prove transformative for retailers and market stall holders alike.

“This partnership between Westmorland Shopping Centre and Kendal College is the start of an exciting new chapter in the evolution of Kendal town centre.”