THERE are concerns that Culham’s Science Centre could turn into a “bog standard business park” after a multi-million-pound expansion plan was approved.
The fears were expressed at South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday where the £8m scheme was given the go-ahead.
Arnold Grayson, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that removing restrictions on the type of companies which use the buildings would result in firms with no relation to science moving in.
“We are doubtful about the relaxation of who can take up tenancy and we are concerned that they would be unrelated to scientific research.
“We don’t want a bog-standard business park at Culham,” he said.
Mr Grayson said the site was already home to an events management firm and a charity supporting people with learning disabilities.
But the centre also houses the Joint European Torus – a project to create fusion energy.
It sits in the Green Belt but when it was originally built an exception was made because of the international significance of its work.
The project is due to end in the next 10 years and its planning permission came with conditions over what the buildings could be used for in future and that they would eventually be demolished.
However, these conditions were removed by the committee on Wednesday at the request of site owner, UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).
Planning permission was also given for a new 9,000sq metre office or research building as well as a new 2,865sq metre facility.
UKAEA says the scheme will create 1,000 jobs and its spokesman, Steven Sensecall said: “The nature of the site, the fact that it is secure with unique facilities, means it will attract science and technology businesses.”
Councillor Elizabeth Gillespie said the site was inappropriate in the Green Belt but there were “special circumstances”. She said they should be proud of the “ground-breaking international research.”