Bapchild PC objects to Science Park Expansion

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27 Mar 2009

Dear Mr Wilson,

SW/09/0118 outline 4ha extension to Kent Science Park
SW/09/0093 detailed application for 2 Units - B1 Use Class

Bapchild Parish Council wishes to object to the above applications on the following grounds

Use of the existing site

The applicant is seeking to develop outside of the security fence on the pretext that there is no alternative, whilst simultaneously claiming that 40% of the park is vacant, a figure which we would place close to 50%.

Little if any regard has been given to the Local Plan Inspectors comments with regard to better utilisation of the existing site and rationalisation of the tenant base. The tenant base which still includes the East Kent PCT, a Housing Association, a welding firm, a furniture company, an accountancy firm and two call centres which account for more than a third of the employment does not appear to have significantly altered since the inspector made his observations, in fact the number of such companies appears to have increased.

The applicant has not proposed any redevelopment of the many run down single storey buildings which could in no way be classified as hi-tech or worthy of architectural merit.

In fact in the last ten years the amount of floor space available has barely changed, yet the developed footprint has increased.

Whilst the development of such a site might require more open space than the average business park development, this could easily be achieved by building two and three storey structures rather than the single storey sheds that have been proposed and constructed to date. Two and three storey buildings do exist on the site, and for that matter on most science parks, so it’s difficult to understand the motivation for only putting forward single storey development.

The arguments put forward as to why Ecologia can not be cited within the present site are flawed, particularly in the case of the proximity to Harada. This is clearly nonsense given the current position on site of both companies and therefore by the applicants own admission Ecologia could be cited within the existing site.

Growth projections

The applicant has put forward growth projections used in the Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) as evidence of their need to expand over the Local Plan period and beyond. However not only did the applicant elect to base this on the upper projection of 5% per annum, but the base line figure in the EIA started with 76.3 occupancy which is now known and acknowledge by the applicant to be incorrect.

Re-calculating the figures on the same basis as used in the EIA starting with our assumption of 50.4% occupancy results in the full occupancy of the park not being reached until 2020 (5%) at the earliest or 2040 (2.5%) . Given that the park has not achieved a 2.5% growth rate per annum over the last five years even the lower growth rate of 2.5% per annum is looking somewhat optimistic especially given the current economic climate.

Sustainable transport

Bapchild Parish Council has been privy to the Transport Appraisal Summary & Critique prepared by Odyssey Consulting Engineers which evaluates the transport proposals included within the applications.

It would appear that the proposals even with their vain attempts to mitigate the impact of traffic, in no way satisfy the Local Plan’s requirement that the development be satisfactorily served by the existing transport network.

In summary

The Local Plan Policy B25 proposes four conditions for a limited expansion without the need to prepare a full Master Plan.

Firstly, however, we would contest that a 4 Hectare expansion is limited, given that the Local Plan Inspector rejected a similar 6 Hectare expansion proposed during the Local Plan inquiry. Even the applicants own benchmark of a maximum 20,000 m2 of development could easily be exceeded with their own proposals and development within the existing site.

In our opinion the application fails to meet any of the four requirements because.

  • The development can be undertaken within the existing security fence.
  • The development can not be satisfactorily served by the existing transport network.
  • The economic need for the development is unproven and therefore does not outweigh the environmental impact.
  • The proposed tenant mix, and arguments put forward for knowledge based tenants vs non knowledge based tenants are by and large meaningless given the failure of the park to be a significant generator of wealth for the borough. The EIA even argued that the definition of KSP as a Science Park remains in part an aspiration rather than a current reality. Therefore it seems obvious to us that a number of users remain incompatible with the use of the site as a Science Park. We would argue that Membership of the UK Science Park Associate does not in itself qualify that the member is a fully operational Science Park, but merely has an aspiration to become one. The London Science Park at Dartford and the Thames Innovation Centre are also both members and neither of these two developments even made it into the EIA as comparison sites, even though both are also situated in the Thames Gateway.