WORK has started on the £34 million expansion of a college in York - the biggest project in its history - after the Government gave the scheme the all-clear.

Askham Bryan College secured planning permission from City of York Council last year for a three-stage development which includes a new animal management centre, a wildlife and conservation area, an equine centre and new teaching facilities and student accommodation, but the project still needed to be cleared by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This approval has now been granted and construction work on the first phase of the development - which will also include an engineering workshop, improvements to the college farm and a glazed roof over the site's quadrangle - has now begun. It will focus on the £6 million animal management centre, which is expected to be completed in autumn.

College principal Liz Philip said: "The start of work on this project is a significant milestone not only for the college, but also for young people wanting to develop career paths into animal science and management.

"The centre will provide a wonderful working environment for our students, and hopefully it won't be too long before we are able to welcome the public to see the new animals in the wildlife and conservation area."

The animal management centre will house lecture rooms, a replica vet practice, a hydrotherapy room for animals, a cattery and kennels. Once the wildlife and conservation area is completed, animals and birds already at the college - including skunks, mongoose, marmosets and birds of prey - will move there and exotic species such as zebras, ostriches and wallabies may be added.

The overall project will create 120 jobs and see almost 1,600 additional students based at the college by 2017/18.