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New jobs and homes approved at expanded Wellcome Genome Campus

Proposals to significantly expand the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton have been backed by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

Bridget Smith leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20075412)
Bridget Smith leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20075412)

The council today (Thursday, October 24) supported an outline planning application to provide a further 150,000sqm of space for employment, conferencing and supporting facilities at the Wellcome Trust’s Genome Campus in Hinxton.

The plans also include up to 1,500 homes for campus-based staff, 30 per cent of which will be affordable.

The Wellcome Trust want to build on the scientific foundations of the campus to become the international centre for scientific, business, cultural and educational activities arising from genomes and biodata. It is estimated that around 4,300 new jobs will be created by the expansion of the campus.

The proposal also includes land for a new school, a nursery and community facilities and provides public open spaces and allotments.

There will also be shops and food and drink outlets, new cycling and walking paths, road crossing points and alterations to local roads including a new roundabout on the A1301. A fitness centre and health centre are also included in the plans.

There were objections from some residents, parish councils and third parties on the impact on the already congested transport network, particularly at peak times, and the impact on nearby villages.

In a statement to the committee as a local member, Cllr Peter Topping said: “This application is opposed by twelve villages nearby, which says something about the scale of this proposal. Any right-thinking person would assume that it should be part of the strategic development set out in the Council’s Local Plan - and yet it is not.

“This application drives a coach and horses through any concept of spatial planning for South Cambridgeshire.

“The district council seems to have laboured with the applicants to come up with a fiendishly complex set of rules about the housing on the campus. There is nothing for local residents hoping for a few crumbs of affordable housing. It’s all tied cottages for the science park workers.

“Tiny Hinxton village has been engaged in what it would regard as a David and Goliath effort. It had asked for some money for a new village hall and it might not even get that from all this.

“I suggest the district council spends more time looking after its villages and less time trumpeting about its obsession with being 'green to the core'."

Cutting-edge genome and biodata research is carried out by around 2,500 people who currently work at the campus, which the Wellcome Trust says is now getting full. The site currently has around 75,000sqm of employment space and conferencing facilities.

The campus is proposed to be opened up to provide public access, which would enable surrounding communities to use a range of open space and facilities.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for planning, Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins, said: “South Cambridgeshire already has a world class reputation for research in this fast-growing area of science. This ambitious project was not anticipated in our current local plan and the planning committee therefore had to carefully balance the impacts of this proposal against the contribution that this unique site will make – both in furthering the scientific, education and economic future of South Cambridgeshire residents, and the rest of the country.

“The council recognises and is committed to supporting the economy of the district and to grow local businesses. I am pleased that through the engagement with local parish councils and negotiation with the applicants a range of measures that will help the Council to bring benefits as well as manage the local impacts of this development will be delivered.”

Cllr Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Having 1,500 homes in the same place as new jobs is forward thinking and a creative way of tackling some of the issues of congestion as it means many people will be able to walk or cycle to work and may even choose not to own a car.

“This is by far the biggest joint housing and employment scheme in this area and will contribute to our ambition to be green to our core as we strive for a zero carbon South Cambridgeshire by 2050. It’s also excellent news that we’ve worked with the Wellcome Trust to increase the amount of affordable housing for staff from 10% to 30%.”

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute said: “We are delighted South Cambridgeshire District Council has resolved to grant planning permission for the campus expansion.

“The expansion plans represent a momentous opportunity to ensure that the full scientific, health, societal and economic benefits of Genomes and Biodata are realised. We look forward to working with the council and the local communities to develop detailed proposals.”

Because the land is not allocated for development, the council’s decision to grant planning permission will now be referred to the Secretary of State, as is normal practice.

Details of the contributions that will be made to local services, facilities and transport links will now be finalised between the council and developer as part of the usual Section 106 process. The more precise details of the proposals, such as the design of buildings, will be dealt with through separate planning applications.

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