£40m science boost for Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 08:00 21 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:03 22 October 2010


Lowestoft was given a massive boost yesterday when plans for a £40m council and marine science complex received government backing.

Lowestoft was given a massive boost yesterday when plans for a £40m council and marine science complex received government backing.

The news will not only safeguard hundreds of jobs, but also create around 80 extra scientific posts and provide a shot in the arm for the economy of the town and area.

Waveney District Council and Suffolk County Council wanted the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) to join them in partnership to build the complex, known locally as Waveney Campus, and split costs between them.

All three are in need of new and updated facilities in Lowestoft and declared their interest in the scheme, with more than £100,000 already spent on it. But a question mark hung over the project after rumours that officials at the government-run Cefas - currently based at the old Grand Hotel in Pakefield - were still looking for a new base in the area just for themselves.

However, yesterday Lord Rooker, Defra's minister for science, announced Cefas would link up with the two councils - effectively signalling the green light for the Waveney Campus, which will be a flagship project for 1st East waterfront regeneration company.

He said he hoped Waveney Campus would be running by 2009 and would guarantee the long-term future of the laboratory, which leads research into the marine environment and fish stocks.

As part of the scheme, he added, another Cefas' centre in Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex would close, with about 80 staff transferring to Lowestoft.

“We want a cutting-edge new laboratory campus which will enable Cefas to stay at the forefront of marine research,” he said.

“The agency's work benefits us all by enhancing the environment in our seas, managing their natural resources and protecting us from aquatic contamination.

“As part of Defra's laboratory strategy, this will also help to secure a sustainable future for Cefas, which remains one of our key public sector partners.

“At the same time the development will help breathe new life into an urban area which will benefit from regeneration.”

Cefas chief executive, Mark Farrar, yesterday spoke to staff at Lowestoft and in Essex about Lord Rooker's announcement and said they would be kept informed of developments.

“I very much welcome this exciting and innovative development in conjunction with our local authority partners,” he said.

“The project will have major benefits for all of the partners and their customers, as well as providing a pathfinder example of regeneration in action in Lowestoft. The new laboratory will bring about 80 new high-quality scientific jobs into the town.

“For Cefas, the new complex will provide cutting-edge scientific facilities at better value for the taxpayer.

“Staff will also benefit from greater opportunities for scientific and commercial collaboration, and better career opportunities.”

Last night, senior figures at both councils hailed the news as a “major milestone” and a “real boost”.

Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee said: “The full commitment of all partners is crucial to the project's success and I am absolutely delighted that Cefas have now been given the green light to go ahead.

“We are making excellent progress, having passed through a very rigorous appraisal process and this news marks another major milestone for the project.

“It is a flagship project for 1st East waterfront regeneration company and for us, the campus will provide the opportunity to improve public council service access in Lowestoft town centre and all the market towns of Waveney.

“It is abundantly clear that the campus will be a huge force for good in Lowestoft and Waveney as a whole.”

Eddy Alcock, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for environment, waste management and economic development, said: “We are delighted to hear this news.

“It's a real boost to the economy for Lowestoft and the whole of the Waveney area, as Cefas provides the high quality jobs that we want here, and adds value to the local community.

“The official announcement that Cefas will be part of the Waveney Campus is very welcome, and shows how we can work with partners to provide a better way for Suffolk.”

Philip Watkins, chief executive of 1st East, said Waveney Campus is the kind of development the urban regeneration company wants to promote.

“This is great news for Cefas and Lowestoft,” he said. “It is about retaining jobs and creating new, high-quality jobs.”

Up to 1,000 politicians, scientists and council workers will rub shoulders at the Waveney Campus, although a site for the centre has not yet been chosen.

However, there is speculation is could be on the Riverside Business Park near to the Wind in the Willows nursery not far from the new £30m Lowestoft relief road which is due to open later this month.

Indeed, that is where plans published by 1st East earlier this year place the Waveney Campus.

Now, all three partners will search for funding for the campus.

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