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£10million science park funding decision expected tomorrow
A DECISION on a multi-million pound funding bid that could see a new science park bring 2,000 jobs to Porton is expected tomorrow.
The £10million funding bid, led by a partnership of Wiltshire Council and the developers, Trebor Developments LLP and Wrenbridge Land Limited, for the Porton Science Park, would also “strengthen considerably” the case of retaining the Health Protection Agency at its current site.
An outline planning application for the £180 million park was given approval in 2008 and would bring new laboratories and offices to a 7.9 acre site.
Steve Richards of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: “If successful, it will kick start the building of a science park outside the wire in Porton.
“Most of the funding for the remainder of the construction work will come from the private sector and take place over the next ten years. “It’s too early to be discussing whether there will be a science university on the site but there have been discussions with the University of Southampton, looking at how it can be involved.”
Those behind the project hope the Porton Science Park will be used as a brand, creating a cluster of scientific expertise.
It is also hoped that the development will mean the departments of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in Porton Down, threatened with relocation, will remain.
A decision on the HPA relocation to Harlow was recently put back a year after the Government requested more work be carried out on the business plan. It is understood that, if the relocation is given the go ahead, no staff would move to the Harlow site until at least 2017.
But Mr Richards said: “In five years’ time we are thinking we will be in phase two or three of the science park and it will be a completely different assessment.
“The science park strengthens the cause for the HPA remaining considerably.”
MP John Glen, who is fighting to keep the HPA in Porton alongside promoting the plans for the science park, said: “Porton is a key strategic location, not just in Wiltshire but for the country as a whole.
“The concentration of highly qualified, highly skilled science graduates and experts makes it the ideal location for a science park and science university linked to Southampton and other local employers, DSTL and HPA Porton.”
An announcement by the Department for Business and Skills on the funding, made available through the Regional Growth Fund, is expected tomorrow.