UKAEA RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT BUILDING PUBLIC CONSULTATION


The UK Atomic Energy Authority (“UKAEA”) is bringing forward planning applications for a number of major development projects at Culham Science Centre (“CSC”). The next project is for a new research and development building. This public consultation provides information about the proposals and gives members of the public an opportunity to comment on the scheme.

The public consultation comprises a set of virtual exhibition boards covering various aspects of the proposed development, including the design, layout, and more technical matters such as transport and sustainability. We hope that the content provides a useful summary of the proposals and will assist with your understanding of the project.

We welcome your feedback on the information included in this consultation in one of the following ways:

  • By visiting the website at: culham.org.uk/consultations and completing a feedback form
  • By emailing your views via the feedback form to: PlanningConsultations@ukaea.uk
  • By posting your response to:

Culham Science Centre Consultation
Carter Jonas
Mayfield House
256 Banbury Road
Oxford
OX2 7DE

The public consultation period will commence on Friday 12th February 2021 and conclude on Friday 26th February 2021.

It is the UKAEA’s intention to submit a formal application for planning permission to South Oxfordshire District Council (“SODC”) in late February 2021. The purpose of this consultation is therefore to invite early comments on the current scheme and to provide advance notice of the forthcoming submission.

As part of the planning application process, you will also have the opportunity to provide a formal response to the application through SODC’s public consultation process.

View of the proposed research and development building from the southwest corner

PROJECT SUMMARY

The UKAEA is preparing a planning application for a new four-storey research and development building at CSC comprising approximately 9,664 sqm of floorspace. The building will accommodate an office space and research/engineering hall aimed at supporting companies developing products and technologies relevant to the emerging Culham fusion technology cluster. Broadly, the proposals will comprise three main elements:

  1. Office space capable of subdivision to allow for flexibility;
  2. Core; and
  3. A research and development hall.

CONTEXT AND CSC PROJECTS OVERVIEW

The CSC is situated approximately 2.75 miles east of Abingdon, 4.5 miles north of Didcot and 5.5 miles south of Oxford. CSC’s origins lay in its former use as a naval airfield. In January 1960, the UKAEA secured planning permission from Oxfordshire County Council for the development of the site as a research establishment and from then it has grown to what you see today.

The CSC forms a key part of Science Vale and the Oxfordshire Knowledge Spine and is one of the largest employment centres in the county covering approximately 80 ha. Employment levels at CSC have been stable and in excess of 2,000 for many years and, in recent years, with a growing community of commercial science and technology enterprises and the broadening of the UKAEA’s portfolio, have started to rise. CSC currently supports over 2,700 jobs and has policy support for growth in the newly adopted South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 (“the Local Plan”) which removes CSC from the Green Belt. The growth seen at CSC builds on its stature as the world’s leading fusion energy research centre.

In the 2020 Budget the Chancellor stated:

“We will invest over £900 million to ensure UK businesses are leading the way in high-potential technologies. This will involve commercialising nuclear fusion technology, offering potentially limitless clean energy, and supporting the government’s ambitious National Space Strategy and space innovation fund.”

More recently, the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, has outlined a Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution in the UK, which includes investment in innovation to develop the cutting-edge technologies needed to research new energy ambitions such as fusion. The Plan will be driven by other key investments set out over the past year, including the government’s £1billion energy innovation fund to stay ahead of the latest technologies needed to reach new energy targets.

The proposal for a new research and development building comprising of office space with an adjoining research/engineering hall, is therefore the next in a series of five major projects across the CSC site. The UKAEA has been consulting the local community on these projects, which will shape, expand and cement CSC as a long-term international science and technology business location. The location of the proposed development is shown on the plan below, edged in red. The other major projects are marked 1 – 4 on the same plan.

  1. OAS Phase 3 – An extension to the existing Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (“OAS”) building.
  2. UKAEA/STEP Offices – A purpose-built office development for the UKAEA and Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (“STEP”) project staff.
  3. STEP Rig Hall – A flexible research space and new Rig Hall.
  4. Main Gateway – A new gateway building at the site entrance.

The development site is located on the western flank of CSC, north of the main entrance and west of Main Avenue. The site extends to approximately 1.62 ha. The site itself is currently undeveloped but is in close proximity to existing buildings to the east, north and south which form part of CSC. Immediately to the west of the site is a significant tree belt, beyond which is the adjacent employment site known as Culham No. 1 Site (beyond the boundaries of CSC).

 

Planning Policy

The Local Plan was adopted at a meeting of Full Council on 10th December 2020. It now forms part of the development plan for the district and replaces the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2011 and Core Strategy.

The Local Plan has an ambitious growth agenda and commits to deliver 39.1 ha of employment land up to 2035. CSC, along with the adjacent housing allocation, is identified for delivery of 7.3 ha of employment land.

Policy STRAT8 sets out the strategic aims for CSC, promoting redevelopment and intensification of CSC for employment development, which would result in job growth and employment opportunities.

The National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”)
sets out in paragraph 80 that “Planning policies and
decisions should help create the conditions in which businesses can invest, expand and adapt. Significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth and productivity”.

The scheme accords with the strategic aims of the development plan and would make a significant contribution to the Council’s employment land commitments.

Site in wider context to Abingdon and Didcot

THE PROPOSAL

Project Brief

The provision of new accommodation for the Research and Development building comprises three main elements:

  • Open plan office space; split into two wings to allow flexibility.
  • Rig Hall; flexible research and development hall.
  • Central core and shared welfare facilities.
  • Multi-Storey Car Park.

Site Arrangement

The key factors which have been considered to inform the development of the new research and engineering building are:

  • Efficient placement of buildings on western flank of site, to maximise development opportunities available.
  • Retention, where possible of existing mature trees.
  • Providing frontage to Main Avenue.
  • Relationship with existing buildings on site, particularly E3.
  • Relationship with the UKAEA & STEP offices currently under development.
  • Addressing future pedestrian routes.
  • Providing external space to foster collaboration between tenants.

Site Organisation Building

Building Organisation

New Research and Development Building

The intention has been for the new research and development building and the UKAEA/STEP offices to be cohesive but for each to retain their individual identities.

Research and Development Building Main Entrance Visual

Colours have been carefully chosen to align
the buildings to each other. The new research
and development building has white panels arranged to mimic the ‘stone’ colonnade on the UKAEA & STEP building.

The projecting fins and glazing arrangement provide a strong vertical element to the new research and development building. The entrance tower is slightly raised and located prominently on the corner. Fins either side of the entrance are coloured to match the panelling around the UKAEA/STEP office entrance as well as large areas of clear curtain walling. This assists in way-finding towards the prominent entrance.

The Rig Hall has horizontal cladding in a different colour to provide a contrast with the office.

Car Park

The multi-storey car park, which is for the sole use of the research and development building users, is designed on split levels to minimise the internal ramp length. Cladding panels to the stair towers and vertical fins are in the same colours as the new research and development building, to provide cohesion between the two buildings. The fins have a random arrangement to break up the car park façade.

Open views of the site, from outside CSC, are limited to the immediate western boundary, with a partial view from the entrance to Culham No.1 Site. These views are filtered by the mature tree belt along the western boundary, which will be reinforced with native understorey planting, in line with the Nuneham Courtney Ridge Landscape Character Area.

Research and Development Building North Elevation

Car Park Entrance Visual

Car Park East Elevation

LANDSCAPE & VISUAL IMPACT

Project Brief

Fabrik Chartered Landscape Architects are currently preparing a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (“LVIA”) (‘in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment’) for the proposed development, as part of the iterative design process and to consider the likely physical and visual impacts arising as a result of the proposed development. This will inform the landscape design approach.

Landscape Character

The site forms part of a linear landscape along the western edge of CSC. It comprises amenity grassland and is bound by a mature tree belt to the west and a line of mature trees to the south. Additionally, four mature trees are located along the eastern boundary, adjacent to the footpath associated with Main Avenue. The trees form the principal key landscape components of this part of CSC and connect with the established landscape framework within the campus.

Key Representative Views

The extent to which the site is currently visible is based on grading of degrees of visibility. It is determined from a visual inspection of the site from roads, Public Rights of Way and properties (both residential and commercial) as experienced from public vantage points. A range of representative viewpoints considering views experienced by different people (principally for this site those at home, at work or travelling through the landscape) have been selected based on an initial desk study and field assessment work. The selection of views additionally considers the existing buildings to the east of the site within CSC (the tallest of which, the Joint European Torus building (“JET”), stands at approximately 32 m) which provide the backdrop and built form context to the site. Currently, apart from views in from within the immediate landscape to the west of the site, the site is predominantly obscured from view due to intervening built form (at Culham No. 1), vegetation or a combination of both landscape and visual effects.

It is predicted that landscape effects will be experienced at the site level, with visual effects limited to those receptors in close proximity to the site and principally those from the west.

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