WORK has begun on turning the upper floor of a shopping centre into an educational facility.

Kendal College will take over the top floor of the Westmorland Shopping Centre when work is complete.

Kelvin Nash, principal and chief executive of Kendal College, is planning to have 58,000 sq metres of the Westmorland Shopping Centre turned into a teaching space for around 400 students.

The college had been forced to use portacabins to facilitate continued growth and a new site will help relieve this pressure.

The application was brought before the district council's planning committee in November because the proposed use, combined with the site's location, meant approval would be a departure from planning policy.

However, it was felt the perceived educational and economic - increased footfall in the town centre - benefits of the scheme, as well the shopping centre's accessibility via public transport and its high vacancy rate, warranted the scheme's approval.

South Lakeland District Council planning officer Nick Howard told the meeting: "It is a departure from policy but we believe there are mitigating circumstances in this case which override that departure."