Wellcome fights for campus

March 26, 1999

The Wellcome Trust sought for the second time this week to convince government that its plans to double the size of its genome research facility in Cambridgeshire deserve the go-ahead.

The trust wants to expand its "Genome Campus", a leader in mapping human and animal genes, to 40,000 square metres so that it can attract firms to commercialise research at the site.

The Pounds 100 million proposal was turned down last year after a public inquiry sparked by local council concerns over the environmental impact of the development. An appeal by the trust has resulted in a second public inquiry. John Prescott, secretary of state for environment, transport and the regions, will make the final decision.

The new proposal contains details of a "green" subsidised transport system. It also stresses the wealth-creating benefits of the expansion.

Campus chief executive Michael Morgan said: "We want to create room for small biotechnology and genomic companies which need to work very closely with the researchers. The whole campus will act as an incubator for ideas and companies.

"It would be a tragedy for both British industry and the research community if it did not succeed."

But the South Cambridgeshire District Council is sticking to its original decision. Gareth Jones, deputy planning director, said the site is an "unsustainable location" and that apart from the incubator facility, a range of alternative sites in the region are available.

Roger Quince, managing director of Granta Park, a 50,000 square metre commercial science park being developed near the campus, also gave evidence for the council. He argued that there is already "ample development" of land in the Cambridge area for research based firms' needs and sufficient to meet forecast demand.

He said the level of personal interaction envisaged by the trust between firms locating to the campus and key academic researchers there was "unrealistic".

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