HE’S the highly respected principal who masterminded a £65m plan to transform a Hampshire college.

Mark Bramwell and his colleagues spent three years devising a project to bulldoze most of the buildings at Totton College and rebuild the facility from scratch.

They were about to gain final approval when the Government axed the funding for the scheme and 144 similar proposals across the country.

Now work is about to start on what the award-winning college describes as Plan B.

Over the next 18 months almost £3m will be spent on refurbishing the existing buildings, adding new facilities and creating an all-weather rugby and football pitch.

Centrepiece of the scheme will be a £1.7m complex housing a hair and beauty department, a new IT centre with 150 work stations, and a second dance studio.

But Mr Bramwell will not be there to see it happen.

The 60-year-old father of four is retiring after 17 years, during which the sixth form college has gone from being the smallest in Hampshire to one of the largest in the UK.

It currently has 1,300 teenage students, plus 4,000 people who attend adult education courses in the evenings and at weekends.

Mr Bramwell, who lives at Brockenhurst in the New Forest, was vice-principal of a college in Manchester before moving south in 1994.

“At the time funding agencies described Totton as the ‘umbrella college’ because all the roofs leaked,” he said.

In 2008 staff unveiled plans to demolish almost all the buildings, many of which date from the early 1950s, and replace them with new state-of-the-art facilities.

The “world-class” scheme was hailed as a once-in-ageneration opportunity to transform ageing classrooms into an eco-friendly centre of excellence.

But less than a year later the Learning and Skills Council pulled the plug on college redevelopment plans across the UK, including the Totton project, after receiving too many applications for funding.

“We never got any compensation, despite having spent £350,000 on preparing the scheme,” said Mr Bramwell.

“I don’t feel bitterness any more but there’s still a sense of three years being wasted, not to mention an awful lot of money.

“We’ve moved on over the past couple of years and we’re about to implement Plan B. I won’t be here as principal but the scheme is part of my legacy.”

The college has secured other Government cash to make the reduced scheme a reality.

During almost two decades at Totton Mr Bramwell has seen the campus achieve outstanding Ofsted reports and a Beacon award for educational excellence.

“What I’ll miss most is the day-to-day contact with the students and their success stories. That’s what made me want to come to work every day,” he said.