Major new development for Suffolk

FULL details of a multi-million pound expansion for Adastral Park - including hundreds of new homes - were today unveiled by bosses at BT.The company wants to more than treble the size of its current business and innovation park.

FULL details of a multi-million pound expansion for Adastral Park - including hundreds of new homes - were today unveiled by bosses at BT.

The company wants to more than treble the size of its current business and innovation park.

And the expansion would include homes, leisure facilities, and green areas as well as updating the existing business centre.

The site has been the home of telecommunications research in Britain for 40 years, but site senior manager Phil Dance said today that the needs had changed dramatically in that time.

Many more business units could be fitted into the existing site because not as much space was needed for equipment as had been the case in the past.

Mr Dance said: “When the research labs were first built there had to be a massive amount of room for computers and general technological equipment. Times have changed significantly.”

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Holding up his mobile phone, he said: “Back in the 1970s and 1980s, you would have a room filled with a huge computer. Now that level of computing power is here in my mobile.

“You simply don't need so much space for equipment, staff are working in offices on computers. That means the amount of space we need is falling but the overall employment levels are staying constant.”

BT wants to redesign existing buildings on Adastral Park and build new units for emerging new companies on the site - a process that is already underway.

Pointing to a block of the original laboratory buildings he said: “That used to be filled with computers and people running around making sure they were working properly. Now it looks like an office with people sitting at individual computers - that's the kind of change we are talking about.”

Changing the face of the existing park is a constant evolution - BT has spent tens of millions of pounds on updating buildings on the site over the last few months.

At present about 4,000 people are employed at Adastral Park, and although BT itself does not expect to employ significantly more in the future, it does foresee a demand for more space for new high-tech businesses who want to cluster in the area.

Mr Dance said: “Evidence from all over the world suggests that companies want to cluster around certain positions so they can work together and communicate more easily. That is why we want to see a significant expansion here.”

Already universities have a presence at Adastral Park with both Essex University and UCL having post-graduate research facilities there.

With the opening of UCS this year, Mr Dance hoped there would be plenty of opportunity for more universities to be involved in the developing innovation park.

WORKING with the nearby community is vital to BT's proposals to expand Adastral Park - especially with its proposals to build new homes on the site.

No planning application has been submitted to Suffolk Coastal Council for the expansion, although informal discussions have been held with planning officers.

The government's masterplan for East Anglia suggests that 3,200 new homes should be built in the Ipswich area of Suffolk coastal by the year 2021 - and BT hopes that a sustainable community next to Adastral Park would provide many of them.

Mr Dance said: “We are looking to create a community that is very much part of the environment, and a community where people can work and enjoy leisure facilities near their homes.

“We are looking to create high-value well-paid jobs on this site and if people have high-quality homes nearby they will be able to get to work on foot or cycle without the need to drive.

“We would also be looking at using energy-saving materials and are very much looking to create a sustainable community.”

The expanded site includes some ancient woodland and quarry pits - these would be enhanced and turned into green features of the new development.

Mr Dance said: “We want to enhance the existing environmental features of the site and see that kind of management as vital to its future.”

Development of the site would also include new shops, leisure facilities, and a new primary school.

New hotels could be built to cater for people who work at Adastral Park for short periods of time - and to provide accommodation for leisure breaks in Suffolk at weekends.

Talks are already planned with officials at Suffolk Coastal, and in announcing the proposals now, BT hopes to involve its neighbours at the earliest possible stage.

“We are now hoping to draw up detailed proposals for the site over the next nine months to a year, but the overall vision will take 10 to 15 years to achieve,” said Mr Dance.

David Lock and Associates, who drew up the blueprint for the Ravenswood development in Ipswich, has been involved in drawing up the proposals.

One major change should be the removal of the security blanket which currently surrounds Adastral Park.

A legacy from the 1970s, Mr Dance said this should no longer be necessary once the redevelopment was completed.

He said; “Rather than a fence offering security to the whole campus, we should be moving to a situation where each building has its own security.

“That means we will be able to open up Adastral Park to the community - it will be a major change for the better.”