UP to 1,000 new jobs could be created as an “Oxfordshire landmark” plans to expand and attract more science and technology firms.
The owner of Culham’s Science Park near Abingdon – the UK Atomic Energy Authority – said it was looking at “significant growth” on the site and is inviting more companies to express an interest in moving into the new buildings.
The proposals could create up to 1,000 new skilled and unskilled jobs, both in the construction of the buildings and in new businesses locating at the site off Abingdon Road.
Leader of Abingdon Town Council, Sandy Lovatt, said:
It sounds like the kind of thing we want – we need these jobs in the town, so I like the idea. There is a tremendous amount of science going on there. It is a landmark in Oxfordshire. A lot of people in Abingdon work in Culham and it offers more jobs for our school leavers.
An outline planning application for three new research labs and office space has been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council. The UK Energy Authority’s head of property strategy, Steven Moss, said they were planning extra work space for 1,000 new jobs on top of the 2,000 already there.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority’s head of property strategy Steven Moss who is pictured above by the land for development. He said,
Culham is identified as a major site for development and we are looking at significant growth here. That will be by utilising the buildings we already have, but also the planning permission is about creating new space.
He said if planning permission was granted, they would be inviting private companies to move into the site. Once these deals are signed they would then look to start building, perhaps as early as next year. He added
We are doing this for several reasons – to make the best use of the space as an employment site, and yes, it would make economic sense. Filling the buildings may be a challenge – we will have to compete with other sites in Oxfordshire – but we think this part of Oxfordshire has a particular attractiveness. As part of Science Vale UK, that is what marks Oxfordshire so strong.
Culham Science Park (currently with 2,000 staff), Harwell Oxford (with 4,500 staff), and Milton Park (with 6,500 staff) make up the enterprise zone in south Oxfordshire called Science Vale UK. Business secretary Vince Cable was at Harwell on Tuesday to visit research complex ISIC – the International Space Innovation Centre. He praised it as a world-leading facility attracting “researchers of all kinds”.
Oxford West & Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “This proposal for Culham is great news – 1,000 new jobs of all kinds, a much-needed boost for the local economy in Abingdon, and yet more evidence that with our vast wealth of science and research expertise, Oxfordshire has the potential to be a powerhouse of Britain’s hi-tech economy.”
There are 45 businesses based at Culham Science Park including the Joint European Torus – a European project to create fusion energy – and LGC Forensics Ltd. Bob Bradley, president of Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are pleased to hear the news about the expansion and the potential to create many new jobs over the next few years. “We hope this will accelerate better transport and broadband infrastructure to support the growth of the science park.”
‘A dynamic, appealing place to work’
Culham resident and scientist John Judge, 26, has worked at two of the companies based at Culham Science Park. From 2011 until March 2013 he worked at forensic science company LGC Forensics Ltd as a drugs reporting officer. Since April he has been working for the JET project as a nuclear chemist in a lab testing the radioactivity of waste at Culham Science Park. He said: “There are so many different companies doing all sorts of scientific work. “Everyone you meet has something interesting to tell you about what they are doing. It is very dynamic, an appealing place to work. “The majority of people live and work around Oxfordshire and Abingdon and quite a few people move here for the job. “It is one of the main bases of UK science and it gets a lot of attention because of that.”
HISTORY OF THE SITE
- The site was the Royal Naval Air Station, HMS Hornbill, between 1944 and 1953.
- In the late 1950s, the UK Atomic Energy Authority chose Culham as a site to construct a new purpose-built laboratory for plasma physics and fusion research.
- During the 1970s, Culham Science Park was chosen as the site for a European-wide science project, the Joint European Torus.
- That research is still going on, but private companies started moving into the site in the late 1980s.
- There are now 45 businesses based at the 197-acre site.