THURROCK figureheads are celebrating the completion of the new South Essex College’s building structure only nine months after work began.

With less than 11 months to go until the new campus – opposite the council offices in New Road, Grays – of South Essex College opens, building contractor Skanska has been marking the “topping out” as a significant landmark in the £45million project.

Once the college opens, students will be able to enjoy a number of unique benefits, such as a modern learning environment, specialist workshops and studio spaces linked to courses for technology, media and creative arts and industry-standard facilities for construction, logistics, engineering and IT.

There will also be areas available for public and community use. Hair and beauty salons, a restaurant and coffee shop will be open to the public.

Principal and chief executive of South Essex College, Angela O’Donoghue, returned to the site to be part of the topping out ceremony.

She said: “It’s hard to imagine this area was flat and practically nothing was here just nine months ago.

“In less than 12 months we’ll be open to students and delivering a wide range of courses to help young people and get them the right training, skills and qualifications they need to get ahead.”

Mrs O’Donoghue dedicated the landmark to the recently deceased councillor Diana Hale, who was the council’s former education portfolio holder between 2007 and 2011.

She said: “That isn’t just our dream, it was also a dream very close to the heart of Cllr Diana Hale, who always played a full and active part in Thurrock education issues and was pivotal in having the vision to get us where we stand today.

“We dedicate this topping out to her memory and legacy.”

Graham Farrant, chief executive of Thurrock Council, said the development is the “keystone of a new and re-invigorated Grays”.

He said: “These buildings, with thousands of students and their tutors, will enable Grays to recapture the hustle and bustle of previous years and become a town that will attract exciting new businesses and stores, a town that will thrive.

“These buildings will also play host to many of the young people who will go on to lead Thurrock’s exciting future, learning the skills to become the movers and shakers in the new industries here.

“This is just the next step in fulfilling our vision of making Thurrock a place of opportunity, enterprise and excellence, where individuals, communities and businesses flourish.”