Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering gets counci boost

22:40 05 August 2014

New knowledge centre to be built on ex RAF Downham Market base. Picture: Ian Burt

New knowledge centre to be built on ex RAF Downham Market base. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

A “game-changing” £170m-plus science and technology centre in Downham Market has received the backing of West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Borough Council leader Nick Daubney.

The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering could spark a jobs boom if plans go through, with 4,600 permanent jobs and 1,500 in construction.

Plans for the site include 10 commercial and research buildings as well as a learning facility for young people which will accommodate 3,000 students, with a 200-student residence.

The site at the old RAF Downham Market base has been chosen for its strong links with Cambridge.

Cllr Nick Daubney said: “It’s a great development and it would provide a huge amount of work for local people and will be a great process for young people to get involved with.

“It shall also narrow the gap with Cambridge in terms of knowledge which I think is great for the town and will really boost its stature.’’

Work on the centre could start later in the year, and will be run by Aventa Capital managing director John Beer, who is to submit a planning application for the site.

Mr Beer said: “We have had a great response from the council, but we need to make sure they are happy with the design and logistics.

“We are looking to add a roundabout on the A10 to access the site
as otherwise it will be tough for the area to handle that many more commuters.

“There is also a lack of power which is a major problem in rural areas across Norfolk and Suffolk.

“We would probably have to try to get a new substation built which would cost around £700,000 but really we need the government to get in touch with power networks to allow this increase in requirements.”

Funding for the project has come from help by UK Trade and Investment, who guide investors to credible regeneration opportunities.

The site is expected to attract both international and national companies, with British companies looking to move out of the more expensive Cambridge. Mr Beer added: “The centre will look to bridge the current gap in skills in interpreting masses of data produced for fields such as medical and defence.”

There are plans for a hotel, conference centre and a war memorial and museum to be put on the site.

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