Hadlow College has unveiled a £40m mixed-use technology, education, business, commercial and tourist park at a former Kent colliery.
The 121ha Betteshanger Sustainable Parks development near Dover will link up with an "economic and social regeneration project" with landscape and building architecture by the Landscape Agency and Sheppard Robson. Hadlow College principal Paul Hannan called it "a landmark deal".
The project will be funded by £29m private investment and £11m from the public sector, of which £6m is confirmed. Some £20m has already been spent on the site by former owner the South East Development Agency, now the Homes & Communities Agency, on cleaning up Betteshanger Colliery's former slag heap and relandscaping and planting the site.
With further landscaping this will become the Betteshanger Sustainable Energy & Mining Heritage Park, which the college hopes will attract 100,000 visitors a year. It will encompass a "landscape laboratory" to trial hardy edible and ornamental varieties and to be used as an outdoor classroom for Hadlow College students.
The college is planning to build an extra 1,000sq m further-education centre and 2,000sq m higher-education centre that will work with commercial growers on the site, particularly on the college's degree in production horticulture. It is in initial conversations with Kent growers Thanet Earth and Intercrop. As well as expanding career courses, Hadlow intends to extend its part-time and short horticultural course offering.
Betteshanger Sustainable Business & Commerce Park will provide 6,700sq m of low-carbon building space for micro businesses involved in green technologies such as renewable power and food security. So far, 35 per cent of capacity is filled, with solar energy supplier Lightsource Renewable Energy lined up as one future tenant.
The college also aims to attract business support from the British fruit industry. The landscape laboratory will also showcase products developed here.
Hadlow director of finance and resources Mark Lumsdon-Taylor said: "It's a very brave decision to do this and we have been working on the scheme for five years to come up with an economic and social regeneration project.
"The supply of incubator space for green-technology companies and the food and drink industry is critical for Kent to build on its proximity to international markets in Europe, London and globally via Manston Airport."
Attempts have been made to regenerate the site since Betteshanger Colliery closed in 1989. Hadlow College bought the site last year and its plan has support from the Government, local authority and businesses. It is estimated that 1,000 local jobs will be created in the building phase next year.