CHIPPENHAM MP Michelle Donelan, the new Minister of State for Universities, has helped break new ground at Lackham with the launch of a new Agri-Tech Building at Lackham.

The new building is part of the £22 million investment by the Government in Wiltshire College & University Centre's campuses at Lackham and in Salisbury.

It is being delivered through the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership to meet the region's skills requirement for the future.

The MP, newly-promoted in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's reshuffle, said: “I am delighted to be here, just a week after I was at the Wiltshire College's apprenticeship awards.

“I am really impressed with what is being done here at Lackham. The £9.2m investment is fantastic and is delivering a centre of excellence that will help not only my constituents but many more people from further afield.”

Miss Donelan, joined Wiltshire College & University Centre principal Amanda Burnside; Peter Wragg, the deputy chairman of Swindon & Wiltshire LEP, in the turf-cutting ceremony.

Ms Burnside said: "I am delighted to be able to welcome Michelle Donelan and everyone here to mark this exciting stage of developments at Lackham.

"Technology offers real opportunities for farmers to increase productivity, protect the environment and make farming safer.

"This investment in the Lackham campus will enable students here to learn about and train in some of the latest technologies and facilities, enabling our future agricultural workforce to develop and maintain competitive edge and protect our increasingly important rural economy."

The new Agri-Tech Building is being built opposite the Grade 2 listed 18th century Lackham House and will become a centrepiece of the campus.

The building will house new teaching classrooms on two floors and should be completed by October.

The first phase of the £9.2m campus development began in September and has seen the former animal centre and outdoor enclosures demolished to make way for modern, industry-standard facilities currently being constructed.

Former classrooms and science laboratories have been transformed into an impressive exotic centre much like a zoo, featuring large vivaria to house reptiles, birds and fish.

The project has also seen the transformation of Lackham House into a Higher Education Teaching Centre on two floors enabling the College to grow its university level offering over the next two years.

Last month, the College announced a new partnership with TH White and DeLaval to create a state-of-the-art robotic milking parlour to support a new undergraduate dairy engineering qualification.

The existing 140-cow dairy unit will be augumented with two robotic milking units, an advanced Bauer slurry control system and a day/night LED lighting system.

Mark Lello, the vice-chairman of the Wiltshire College & University Centre board of governors, said: “There is a sense of momentum about the whole project that will continue for many years to come.”

The new Agri-Tech Building has been designed by AWW architects of Bristol, and will be built by construction company Bray & Slaughter.