Business leaders back campus project

Business leaders have insisted that a controversial £53.7m council and science headquarters will act as a catalyst for further regeneration of a deprived area of Lowestoft.

Business leaders have insisted that a controversial £53.7m council and science headquarters will act as a catalyst for further regeneration of a deprived area of Lowestoft.

They claimed the landmark Waveney Campus project, earmarked for the banks of Lake Lothing off Riverside Road, would promote further investment in the area, even though a number of existing businesses are set to be forced off the site.

Representatives from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and the 1st East Urban Regeneration Company spoke at this week's public inquiry which will rule if Waveney District Council was correct to issue compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to several businesses.

The local authority has joined forces with the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and Suffolk County Council to formulate plans for a new state-of-the-art building to house 1,000 staff by 2010. They claim the move will cut high maintenance costs at their current buildings and give better value for money to taxpayers.

They also insist the campus will

encourage further widespread investment

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in the area, creating many new jobs.

But nine objectors from the Riverside Business Park have employed a legal team to fight the proposals, claiming it was wrong to issue the CPOs.

Barrister Martin Edwards, representing objectors, claimed about 130 jobs could be lost among the firms being forced off the site. He pointed in particular to a company called Pipeshield, which has been set up with the help of a £60,000 grant from EEDA.

Philip Watkins, chief executive of 1st East, which was appointed to regenerate Lowestoft and Yarmouth, said: "We consider it is a key project which will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of this area."

Earlier in the hearing, which was heard before a government-appointed inspector and has now been adjourned until the middle of June, fears were raised that the project could be hampered by soaring costs.

But Brian Robinson, commercial director of Cefas, said the project was subject to regular cost reviews and managers had been told not to exceed the budget.