WORK is finally underway on a new £1.75m state of the art equestrian centre for Craven College, Skipton.

The centre, which will include an international size indoor arena with seated viewing gallery, for use by both college students and the public, a stable block, teaching area and car parking, was originally given planning permission more than two years ago, but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was also put back for amendments to be made to the development, which is being built on land owned by Craven Cattle Mart Auctions, close to the A629 bypass and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Changes include a smaller site than originally planned and reduced operational hours in an attempt to minimise disruption to nearby homes.

Lindsey Johnson, principal and chief executive officer of Craven College said the new facilities were part of the college's aspirations to be the leading supplier in the area for land-based courses.

She said: “We are thrilled that the development is finally underway. The college has seen recruitment of young people, in particular onto land-based courses, increase both last year and this year - and this will support our ambition to be the leading college for land-based education in the area, which is so important to our local economy.”

If everything goes to plan, the new centre will open its doors to students and the public in about a year's time, at the start of the new academic year in September, 2022.

The main indoor arena will provide first-class facilities for student training and is also intended to host a variety of events such as dressage and show jumping, which will be open to the public.

There will also be a warm-up arena, which will allow students to ride and work their horses in different conditions. Additionally, a large stable block will house the horses staying at the college, a 'wash box', for the cleaning of horses, a student practical teaching area, tack room, offices, rug store and feed room.

The first phase of the development is underway, involving the temporary stockpiling of earth that will be relocated and eventually used around the site as part of the approved landscaping.

The college is leasing the land from owners CCM Auctions, and replaces the existing arena and stables at the auction mart, off Gargrave Road.

Jeremy Eaton, general manager, CCM Auctions, said they were pleased to see the project underway.

"This development continues our long standing collaboration with the college and the new facilities will greatly contribute to our local economy and enhance employment opportunities in our region.

"Housing these new facilities reinforces the rural training offer based on the auction mart campus, whilst contributing towards the underpinning of the livestock auction, which provides an essential service to farmers throughout Craven and the north.”

Joanna Baxter, head of department (Land-based) at Craven College said:“These superb facilities will allow our students to better develop their skills and knowledge, allowing them greater opportunities for a successful career in the equine sector.

"We are extremely keen to further develop our links with equine businesses and partners and continue to provide an excellent environment for equine education within the community.”

When the scheme was originally approved by Craven District Council in February, 2019, councillors described the centre as being nationally recognised as a centre of excellence and a great credit to the town and praised the college for being forward looking. Others however expressed concern about its impact on the appearance of the canal.