Cambridge biotech cluster in planning setback

August 20, 1999

The growth of the Cambridge biotechnology cluster received a knock-back this week after deputy prime minister John Prescott threw out plans for a Pounds 100 million science park alongside the Wellcome Trust's genomics campus at Hinxton Hall.

The decision to reject the planning appeal was received with disappointment by the trust, the world's largest medical research charity.

But the ruling still leaves the door open for a fresh proposal for up to 24,000 square metres - more than half of what was being sought. Local councillors who had opposed the original proposal accept that some form of compromise development was likely.

The deputy prime minister also cleared the way for two other high-tech developments in the region, a 4,000 square metre expansion of the Harston Mill base of the Generics Group, a leading science and technology consultancy, and for another 13,000 square metre growth of the Babraham Institute's post-

genomics research campus.

Michael Morgan, the Wellcome Trust's head of genomics, had previously said that rejection of the proposed 40,000 square metre siting of spin-off companies at Hinxton Hall would put at risk the UK's lead in identifying and exploiting genes.

After South Cambridgeshire District Council rejected the

original proposal as a threat to the rural character of the region, the appeal was regarded as a

test of the government's commitment to encouraging biotechnology.

Peter Hyde, chief executive of the Generics Group, welcomed his own scheme's approval but warned that if the region was to thrive as a biotech cluster, it would need extra government money to improve local transport and housing.

"With the rejection of the

Hinxton proposal, the message is not as 100 per cent as one would have liked, but it does send a strong message to the local

council that they will have to

find a way to cope with the success that Cambridge is having," he said.

The Hinxton decision was greeted with relief by local people who had opposed the development.

Robin Driver, a district and county councillor, said: "Of course we're very pleased that

this major plan has been dismissed and we have a period of calm before negotiating more modest, phased expansions to

the site."

Opinion, page 12

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