UKAEA & STEP Offices

1. Welcome and Feedback

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (“UKAEA”) is bringing forward planning applications for a number of major development projects at Culham Science Centre (“CSC”). One of these major projects will deliver new offices for the UKAEA STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) programme and UKAEA management and operations team.

STEP / UKAEA Offices Reserved Matters Submission

This application is a Reserved Matters submission which is pursuant to an approved Outline Planning Permission granted by South Oxfordshire District Council (“SODC”) in 2016.

Outline Planning permission (reference: P16/S1753/O) was granted for:

  • Erection of up to 9,000 sqm of Class B1 (office/research) development.
  • The Outline planning permission establishes the principle of development and sets the parameters against which any Reserved Matters application will be considered.
  • The Reserved Matters comprise only the detailed issues of the appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale of the development.
  • The purpose of this public consultation is to provide members of the community with a summary of the key information regarding the proposals which can be found in more detail on the SODC website.
  • We hope that the content provides a useful summary of the proposals and will assist with your understanding of the project.

In January 2020, UK Government committed £222M to the UKAEA to undertake the conceptual design of a prototype fusion plant known as the ‘Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production’.

STEP is an ambitious programme run by the UKAEA to accelerate the delivery of sustainable fusion energy. The spherical tokamak is a promising type of compact fusion machine, which has been under development since the 1980s.

The investment will enable development of a conceptual design for the plant by 2024, in collaboration with partners from industry and academia. Eventually, STEP offers the realistic prospect of constructing a prototype plant which produces net energy, targeting 2040.

2. Project Overview

Culham Science Centre with red line application boundary

Culham Science Centre with red line application boundary

The site for the STEP / UKAEA Offices is set within the western flank of Culham Science Centre, off Main Avenue. It is accessed via Culham Science Centre’s main entrance off the A415 Abingdon Road.

The elements of the proposed new office building will include:

  • A four-storey building to accommodate the STEP research programme and UKAEA teams.
  • The provision of circa. 7,500 sqm of flexible open plan office accommodation, suitable for the adoption of an agile working environment.
  • An energy efficient building that achieves BREEAM 2018 rating of Excellent.
  • A new landscaped plaza for general use by campus staff.
  • A design which provides a clear identity for the individual users to allow the promotion of their research.
  • A building that responds to and develops its context, forming a keystone of further development at CSC.


Computer Generated Visualisation of Proposed Development

Computer Generated Visualisation of Proposed Development

3. Highways

The access to the development will be via the main entrance to the site and internal road network to the building. It is anticipated that there will be a limited number of visitors and delivery vehicles to the building.

Car parking will be accommodated within two purpose-built multi-storey car parks adjacent to the entrance to CSC. This will be subject to a separate planning application. This will be subject to a separate planning application. Car parking spaces will be provided adjacent to the building entrance for disabled badge holders.

Covered cycle parking for at least 60 bicycles will be provided to the rear of the building and the proposal will include washing facilities for employees to encourage active travel choices.

The trip generation associated with 9,000 sqm of development has already been assessed as part of the outline application. The Reserved Matters application is for a smaller building. The proposed office building has capacity for 600 employees, but 300-400 employees will be relocating from within CSC.

CSC committed to achieving modal shift in the way staff travel to the site. To support this aspiration, and achieve BREEAM rating of Excellent, the application is accompanied by a Travel Plan which promotes alternative modes of travel.

Culham Science Centre car parking locations

4. Landscaping

The site currently comprises open grassland with a mature tree belt on the western boundary, Main Avenue to the eastern boundary and several mature trees to the north and the south of the site.

The intention is to create a landscape that provides an appropriate setting for the proposed STEP / UKAEA Offices and a neighbouring new building (which will be the subject of a separate application), integrates new and retained buildings on the campus and enhances the existing vegetation and biodiversity.

The main elements of the scheme include:

  • A central landscape plaza;
  • Enhancing the mature tree belt to the west with additional native understorey treatment;
  • Culham Science Centre car parking locations
  • A ‘staff garden space’;
  • Street tree planting to Main Avenue, with integrated provision of accessible parking;
  • Discreetly located service yards to rear of buildings;
  • The use of SUDS throughout the landscape for amenity and enhancing ecology;
  • Focus on encouraging walking and cycling.

Sustainable drainage is integral to the scheme and the landscape will be used to attenuate, treat and allow infiltration of water. In this way the landscape will be suited to climate change adaptation, create a varied hydrology for enhanced ecology and let water give amenity and animation to public spaces.

Proposed Landscape Illustrative Masterplan

Proposed Landscape Illustrative Masterplan


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.

6. Thank you

Thank you for taking the time to review these details. The Reserved Matters application is programmed for submission in January 2021. There will be an opportunity to comment formally on the proposals, via the Council’s consultation process, as part of the Reserved Matters application.

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