Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Thursday, January 10, 2013
The bosses of Norwich Research Park believe the city could become one of the leading centres in Europe for bioscience research after plans for a major new office and laboratory development were approved.
And the economic benefits from the £26m investment could be felt by businesses serving the influx of scientists who are expected to fill nearly 6,000 new jobs created by the new 65,000sq m development for commercial research.
Alan Giles, project director for Norwich Research Partners, said there would also be schools for the children of employees at the Colney Lane research park and health services would also improve.
He said: “Families will be there and children would be there who need teaching, doctors would be employed and there will be catering, hotels will flourish so there are a whole range of activities that will benefit and we think it will not only drive economic activity on the park but in the region as a whole.
“We have got a long way to go to catch up with Cambridge and London, but I think in the specialist bioscience area it will make Norwich one of the pre-eminent cities in Europe.”
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk and a government adviser on life sciences, backed the unanimous decision by South Norfolk Council’s development management committee to approve the plans.
He said: “World-class facilities, entrepreneurs and companies need world-class planning, which is why I welcome the work South Norfolk Council and partner agencies are doing to plan the park growth.”
The committee approved the plans despite some concerns. Judith Virgo, county councillor for Colney, was worried that an increased volume of vehicles would exacerbate existing problems for ambulances using the B1108 Watton Road which links the park to Norwich and the A47.
She said: “I have seen ambulances struggle to get through the long queues of traffic. At the end of the A47 sign the traffic is frequently queued up back to the A47 bypass. More traffic on the B1108 will put more pressure on the ambulances.”
However, both Mr Giles and David Higgins, of the county council’s highways department, said improvements would be made to the B1108 and Colney Lane, including new pedestrian and cycle lanes.
Councillors also raised concerns over £1.6m of community infra-structure funding from nearby developments, including the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, had not already been spent on upgrading roads to carry the traffic.
Mr Higgins said because there was “no time limit on spending the money, nothing had been done,” before subsequently backtracking to say the lack of a time limit had not acted as a “driver” to spend the money.
The development will be built in stages, starting in the spring with a hub building and commercial research and development space, as well as a new enterprise centre.
There will be north and south sections with enhancements to the innovation centre, improvements to car parks to create 1,274 spaces, lighting, roads and IT infrastructure and work on roads around the park