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Huawei submits revised plans for R&D centre in Sawston that would create 350 jobs

Chinese technology company Huawei has submitted revised plans for a new research and development centre in Sawston that would create 350 new full-time jobs.

A public consultation has been launched by South Cambridgeshire District Council on the proposals for the former Spicer’s site and will run until February 22.

Huawei site, Sawston (27749479)
Huawei site, Sawston (27749479)

The company, which has a base on Cambridge Science Park, initially submitted plans last summer, but withdrew them amid concerns raised over the impact on the landscape and the visual impact of the buildings.

Huawei has worked with Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service – a partnership between Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council – to make significant changes to the plans, including lowering the floor level and adding a curved roof.

The multinational company, which paid £37.5million for the 550-acre plot in 2018, works in the fields of telecommunications, consumer electronics and smartphones.

At the 50,000 square feet R&D centre, research would be conducted in the field of photonics, in which lasers, optics, fibre-optics and electro-optical devices are used for data communications and other technologies. There would also be 9,500 square metres of office space at the development, which would lie on the site previously occupied by stationery company Spicer’s for a century, between Whittlesford Road and the Cambridge to Liverpool Street railway line, with the A1301 beyond.

Huawei’s plans include improved access via the A1301, along with an east-west footpath and cycle link from this main site entrance via the A1301 through to Whittlesford Road.

At least 10 per cent of the emissions from the development would be offset by renewable or low-carbon energy sources, according to the plans.

Solar panels would generate electricity for the building and renewable sources would be used for heating and hot water.

The nearby woodland, which is protected as a biodiversity priority habitat, would be avoided.

An ecological assessment suggests that there could be a 15 per cent net gain in biodiversity overall thanks to plans to add six areas of woodland on arable land, plant three hedgerows and create a new grassland area to the west of the existing woods, using soil from the site. A nearby ditch would also be improved.

South Cambridgeshire district councillor Tumi Hawkins. Picture: Keith Heppell
South Cambridgeshire district councillor Tumi Hawkins. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for planning, said: “We’ve held several workshops with Huawei since they withdrew their original plans for this site and there have been significant changes to the design as a result.

“These are therefore new proposals and so I would encourage local people to let us know their thoughts.

“It’s quick and easy to register your opinions on our website, so I am encouraging residents to make sure they get involved and have their say.”

The plans show a 20-metre buffer between the site and the scheduled ancient monument of the Iron Age hillfort known as Borough Hill, which lies to the south east of the site.

On Tuesday, the government agreed to allow Huawei to play a role in the development of non-core areas of the UK’s future 5G network, despite US officials warning the move represented a security risk.

You can comment on the Sawston plans by visiting scambs.gov.uk/planning/view-or-comment-on-a-planning-application and using the reference number S/0158/20/FL.

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