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Downham Market in the spotlight at Westminster with launch of £350m project - bringing 4,500 new jobs

PUBLISHED: 19:34 23 November 2015 | UPDATED: 19:34 23 November 2015

Artist impression of the proposed Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering at Downham Market. Picture: Submitted

Artist impression of the proposed Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering at Downham Market. Picture: Submitted

Archant

A west Norfolk town has been thrust into the spotlight with the launch of a £350m project - expected to bring 4,500 jobs to the region.

Developers behind a new engineering campus in Downham Market have assured the funding will be found, and work is due to begin in the middle of next year - once planning permission has been agreed.

The Downham Market Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering (CfAke), showcased in a reception at the House of Commons today, is aimed to attract world-leading businesses to west Norfolk.

Along with new investment at RAF Marham, it is expected to bring a total of £1bn to west Norfolk.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss told those at the reception how the data and technology campus, at the former RAF Downham Market, would help people not just live locally, but work locally as well.

“We know there is a growing trend for this,” she said. “This is a fantastic town which is very well connected and about to be better connected.”

The company behind the project, Downham Market Development (DMD) want to create a new university technical college on site to provide the workforce for the business hub.

The college, which will be among the first buildings to be compete, is aimed provide education for 14 to 19 year olds, taking its first students in September 2017.

Developers said an application for the college, which would be launched in partnership with the College of West Anglia, would be submitted in January.

Michael Carrick, chief executive of DMD’s parent company Aventa Capital Partners, said it was an opportunity to transform Downham Market’s rural economy, and drag investment away from London.

“We can’t sustain more economic growth in London,” he said. “It’s not affordable.”

He added the project would bring more homes and schools to the area. “We want to make transformational change,” he said.

Mr Carrick added the project would go through consultations with people in Downham Market before work began.

Leading the project in Downham Market is DMD chief executive John Beer, who said major US corporations had shown interest in the project.

He added more details would be announced in the next month.

An application for full planning permission is expected to be submitted in the next three months with work to begin in the middle of next year.

Are you launching a major business project? Call business writer Sabah Meddings on 01603 772879 or email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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