Concern over science park expansion plan

Adam GrettonA question mark has been raised over the future expansion of the pioneering Norwich Research Park on the eve of its latest extension being approved.Adam Gretton

A question mark has been raised over the future expansion of the pioneering Norwich Research Park on the eve of its latest extension being approved.

The first phase of the development of a greenfield site next to the leading scientific research hub is set to get the green light tomorrow - almost two years after the plans were first mooted.

But agents for the proposed Norwich Innovation Centre (NIC) have raised a doubt over when the rest of the UEA Triangle site will be delivered because of a lack of private investment during the economic downturn.

A scheme by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) for the 3,900sq m innovation centre to house small and medium sized research and development companies is being recommended for approval at South Norfolk Council tomorrow , despite a disagreement over when a footpath and cycle way should be constructed.

The project forms part of a larger site, which was granted outline planning permission in 2008, for four buildings with a total of 13,000sqm of new research space that borders the B1108 Watton Road.

The UEA Triangle land, which would be accessed from Colney Lane, forms part of a Greater Norwich Development Partnership masterplan that aims to create 5,000 new jobs at the Norwich Research Park (NRP) by 2021.

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However, agents for the EEDA innovation centre have raised a question mark over whether the rest of the 5ha site, owned by the University of East Anglia, will actually come forward in the short to medium term.

Graham Bloomfield, of Norwich-based Bidwells, said: 'It is not a secret that the market is very difficult at the moment. One building has been subsidised by EEDA and without public subsidies there is a question mark over the rest of the site.

'It is quite important for the long-term growth of the NRP, but in the current economic market it is very difficult to predict when it is coming forward.'

South Norfolk Council officers are recommending that members approve the EEDA scheme tomorrow , despite a request by the highways authority to install a foot and cycle way and toucan crossing across the Watton Road, before the site is occupied.

Matthew Hills, operations manager for the NRP, added that the development of the triangle site was a long-term goal, which would have been more urgent had EEDA not recently invested in refurbishing an existing vacant building at the research park for Colney Innovations Ltd, which will create 300 jobs.

'It [the triangle site] will be built and developed over the next 20 years and is part of a plan that is still being developed. The timing of it will depend on the economic situation. It is part of a long-term vision, but it would have been shorter term if this other building had not become available,' he said.

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