Planning Inspector David Reed BSc DipTP DMS MRTPI appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, accepted the developer’s case that there is insufficient demand for a high-quality research park on the site adjacent to the Spirit of Enterprise roundabout on the A1307 at the entrance to Haverhill. He also agreed that there was currently sufficient employment land in and around Haverhill to meet future needs.
The site is extremely well located for new residential development, being Cambridge facing and close to a range of amenities including a day nursery, Sainsburys supermarket and family pub/restaurant, as well as the recently built EpiCentre office complex.
Jaynic gained outline planning permission for the research park in 2012 and has spent the last nine years marketing the site for research and development businesses but to no avail.
Andrew Anderson, Director of Jaynic, said: “we had really hoped to create a scheme that would give biotech and technology companies an alternative to the more expensive locations in and around Cambridge, but despite spending nearly £1.2m on management and marketing the scheme, we were unable to attract those types of commercial occupiers to Haverhill Research Park. Our ambition to achieve this, supported by West Suffolk and the LEP, led us to speculatively develop the Epicentre at the gateway to the site and Haverhill. Whilst we are very confident that the Epicentre will be very successful and the evidence shows it will be – with 10 occupiers already signed up despite Covid – there is more than sufficient land next door to provide eventual ‘grow on’ space and reserving the other two plots for employment uses, which now have residential planning consent, isn’t justified.
“In this context, we decided to apply for a residential scheme on the two biggest development plots, which West Suffolk Council was unable to accept as they believed the site should remain as a potential key employment development. When planning permission was refused, we reluctantly went to appeal and argued our case – so we are obviously very pleased with the outcome,” added Anderson.
The planning inspector concluded in his decision that: “The loss of the larger high quality employment site and the vision and ambition it held out for Haverhill is to be regretted, but the time has come to accept that market forces are against the proposal and that an alternative use should be permitted on the site. The planning balance is firmly in favour of the scheme and the appeal should therefore be allowed.”
A Section 106 agreement between Jaynic, West Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council agreed in August 2020 provides for the affordable housing on the site, as well as financial contributions towards education facilities, healthcare, libraries, traffic calming, travel plan measures and real-time public transport information. Also, there will be footpath links providing improvements to pedestrian accessibility, publicly accessible open space, and a children’s play area.
Jaynic will seek bids from national housing developers for the new housing allocation and it is hoped that development will commence early in 2022.
The developer will continue to seek employment generating uses for 1.68acres of the park that could accommodate up to 50,000 sq ft of commercial space and in the last six months it has completed development of The EpiCentre, an innovation centre overlooking the Spirit of Enterprise roundabout. This is managed by Oxford Innovation the UK’s leading operator of innovation centres with 26 managed facilities around the British Isles who has just signed up its tenth occupier on flexible terms.