Plans to create 'Suffolk Silicon Fen' killed by market forces

Plans to build homes at what was to be a major research park in Haverhill have got the go-ahead on appeal

Jaynic's plans for 155 homes at its Haverhill Research Park site - Credit: Jaynic

Market forces have conspired against a plan to lure Cambridge tech companies across the border into Suffolk, a planning inspector has concluded.

David Reed agreed that a plan hatched in 2012 to attract biotech and tech firms from the city’s “Silicon Fen” to the 13.6 acre Haverhill Research Park site wouldn’t work because of insufficient demand.

His decision means that developer Jaynic — which spent nine years marketing the site for research and development businesses to no avail — will be able to build 155 homes on the site off the Spirit of Enterprise roundabout on the A1307, a third of which will be “affordable”.

The Berkshire and Bury St Edmunds-based property development firm — owned and run by Nic Rumsey — appealed a decision by West Suffolk Council after the authority gave the new plans the knock-back because it felt it should remain an employment site. It was behind the original plans but submitted the homes proposal after concluding it was time to throw in the towel.

Mr Reed accepted the developer’s case that there was insufficient demand for a high-quality research park on the site and there was enough employment land in and around Haverhill to meet future needs.

“The loss of the larger high quality employment site and the vision and ambition it held out for Haverhill is to be regretted, but the time has come to accept that market forces are against the proposal and that an alternative use should be permitted on the site,” said the inspector. “The planning balance is firmly in favour of the scheme and the appeal should therefore be allowed.”

Jaynic says the site is “extremely well located” for a new homes development, with amenities including a day nursery, Sainsburys supermarket and family pub/restaurant and the recently built EpiCentre office complex.

Most Read

Jaynic director Andrew Anderson said: “We had really hoped to create a scheme that would give biotech and technology companies an alternative to the more expensive locations in and around Cambridge, but despite spending nearly £1.2m on management and marketing the scheme, we were unable to attract those types of commercial occupiers to Haverhill Research Park.

“Our ambition to achieve this, supported by West Suffolk and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), led us to speculatively develop the Epicentre at the gateway to the site and Haverhill. 

“While we are very confident that the EpiCentre will be very successful and the evidence shows it will be – with 10 occupiers already signed up despite Covid - there is more than sufficient land next door to provide eventual ‘grow on’ space and reserving the other two plots for employment uses, which now have residential planning consent, isn’t justified.

“In this context, we decided to apply for a residential scheme on the two biggest development plots, which West Suffolk Council was unable to accept as they believed the site should remain as a potential key employment development. When planning permission was refused, we reluctantly went to appeal and argued our case – so we are obviously very pleased with the outcome."

A council spokesman said: “While we are disappointed with the inspector’s decision, we remain committed to working with partners to further jobs and skills growth in Haverhill and across West Suffolk.”

Jaynic said it will be seeking bids from national housing developers for the scheme and hopes building can start in early 2022.

It added that it would continue to seek employment generating uses for 1.68acres of the park that could accommodate up to 50,000sq ft of commercial space. It completed the EpiCentre innovation centre a few months ago and appointed Oxford Innovation to manage it.

Jaynic is behind a number of schemes in the region, including a recent proposal for a large warehousing and industrial site at the Karro meat factor site near Haverhill.