Expert Opinion Exposes Deep Technical Flaws in the Hybrid Planning Application for a ‘Science Park’ in Inland Farm, Wanborough
The central plank of the applicant’s proposal is that this is to be a “Science Park”. The Employment Land Report (ELR), relied upon in the Inlands Farm planning application, specifically refers to the UKSPA definition for “What is a Science Park”.
The SSPG are aware of Wasdell’s packaging and storage operation in West Swindon and our look at the plethora of documentation could not find any evidence that the operations outlined in the application resembled anything like that of a Science Park.
The SSPG commissioned a report by Dr Malcolm Parry, a founder member of UKSPA, editor of their publication on definitions and author of a number of chapters, to examine the Wasdell application and provide an independent view on the proposal.
With 37 years of continuous experience in planning, development and operation of Science Parks – Dr Parry is an authoritative figure that can be depended upon to provide an expert assessment of the Inlands Farm proposal.
There are 3 fundamental principles that define a Science park;
- Formal links to an established HOST research organisation (typically a University or institute/academy of science)
- On-site specialised management professionals that support knowledge and technology transfer between co-located businesses to foster innovation and development.
- Business incubation facilities that nurture start-ups and de-risk entrepreneurial activity.
Dr Parry’s findings do not make supportive reading for this proposal as it fails to satisfy those fundamental requirements for Science park status and success. In short, he summarises that;
- No Host organisation has been identified. For example looking locally, the Swindon branch of Oxford Brookes University provides adult nursing and peri-operative care courses, but here are no research facilities or community of science practices accessible to any businesses locally.
- Wasdell claim that their packaging company is the centre for supporting other General industrial companies on site. Association with a packaging, warehousing or manufacturing business alone on an isolated site does not qualify as a Host for a Science park.
- There are no identified partners to provide on-site specialised management services or incubation facilities to develop the culture of innovation.
- Classification of operations to be attracted to the site as “Businesses” does not oblige them to provide access to a science and research HOST or any specialist innovation management.
He confirms there is a growing misuse of the term Science Park often used as a flattering description - for applications which are essentially for general business and industrial use. Sites typically become dominated by such “General Industrial” use rather than premises for “Research and Development” and therefore do not have the distinction of being recognised as, or operating as, a Science Park.
The shortcomings in this application would not make the site a Science Park
other than in branding alone.
Commenting on this report’s conclusion, John Warr, The SSPG Chair, observed:
“This report by an acknowledged expert in this specialised field echoes one of the main objections the South Swindon Protection Group has submitted to Swindon Borough Council regarding this deeply flawed application.
Whilst the SSPG commends any entrepreneur for seeking the means to grow and develop their business in Swindon, this applicant by no means fulfils any of these very precise and particular roles, which cannot coexist with a commercial organisation. Merely proclaiming the aspiration to do so is at best optimistic and at worst disingenuous”.
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