Government training agency the Learning and Skills Council is to extend its education building programme in Essex as part of the regeneration of the Thames Gateway.

The council plans four new-build further education colleges. Alison Webster, executive director of the council’s Essex office, said: “Now is the time to invest in state education. We are looking at several sites, including Thurrock, Basildon, Epping and Chelmsford.”

The council has invested £829m in education projects in the past four years, and Essex has one of the largest funding pots for capital projects of the regional councils.

The division has recently provided funding for the £52m KSS-designed South East Essex College of Arts and Technology, which was officially opened last week.