Plans submitted for UK’s first bespoke AgriTech Park
Plans submitted for UK’s first bespoke AgriTech Park

Press release: 28:11:17

Terence O’Rourke has submitted plans for the UK’s first bespoke technology park for AgriTech to South Cambridgeshire District Council on behalf of developer SmithsonHill.

The proposed plans for the 553 acre site to the south of Cambridge, will see the delivery of 1 million square feet of employment space, alongside agricultural land for crop trials and demonstration plots. The development will cost an estimated £500m to develop and will create a centre of excellence that will put the UK at the forefront of global agricultural innovation and productivity.

AgriTech is seen by the Government as one of the key growth sectors for the UK, developing technologies which assist farmers and the food chain to improve their performance and thus supporting agriculture and the food chain in tackling global challenges including: addressing hunger and malnutrition; using resources sustainably; promoting disease resistance; responding to climate change; and delivering healthy food that supports wellbeing.

Terence O’Rourke has been advising SmithsonHill – a joint venture between Russell Smith Farms and Hill Commercial Investment – on the proposals for the site, providing specialist input on planning, masterplanning, heritage, landscape and Environmental Impact Assessment.

Tim Hancock, managing director at Terence O’Rourke, says: “A key focus of the masterplan has been creation of a campus environment that will foster innovation and knowledge share in product development by maximising opportunities for face to face communication between entrepreneurs, investors and end users on a daily basis.  Balanced with this has been the need to respect existing site characteristics including the setting of a grade II listed building adjacent to the site.

Through provision of office, laboratory, and workshop space and shared central facilities (for use by employees and the local community) alongside demonstration plots and field trial facilities, the park will provide the optimum environment to help companies develop, commercialise and market new agricultural technologies, contributing significantly towards securing the UK’s long term role in achieving the global challenge of meeting the growing demand for food in a sustainable manner.

The outline planning application seeks approval for up to 120,000 sqm gross internal floorspace of flexible employment space that will be set within a low-density parkland environment. The proposed main area of the scheme covers approximately 188 acres, with a central parkland area of 52 acres that will be subject to a programme of restoration and made open to the local community, along with a further 54 acres of open space within the main area of the park itself. On top of this, a further 12 acres of public open space is proposed outside the main park to include enhanced access to nearby Whittlesford Parkway rail station. The proposals are compliant with the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership Strategic Economic Plan and have a clear synergy with a number of government priorities and key objectives of national importance relating to agriculture, technology, innovation, clean growth, climate change and the emerging industrial strategy.

Emma Fletcher, managing director at SmithsonHill, comments: “Between 2015 and 2016, the number of hungry people globally rose by 38 million. We are facing a global food production challenge and with the population estimated to rise by a further 2 billion by 2050, it is one that demands immediate attention. In order to overcome these issues, world-changing, innovative AgriTech spaces must be established where we can share ideas and learnings and where we can compete on a global scale with other countries.

“Cambridge has firmly established itself as one of Europe’s leading destinations for technology and bioscience, but despite the regions strength in these sectors, the UK AgriTech industry has been woefully undersupplied until now.”

Subject to approval, construction is expected to commence in 2019 with the first units available for occupation in 2022.