Huawei Given Nod for 1bn Cambridgeshire R&D Facility

Huawei has been given the go-ahead by South Cambridgeshire District Council to build a £1bn research and development facility nine miles outside of Cambridge. Voting nine to one in Huawei’s favour on Thursday 25th June, councillors approved planning permission for the 53-acre site in Sawston, which Huawei will develop with a view to moving its operation from Ipswich to Cambridge.

According to the now approved planning application, it is “the first phase of a wider campus” and will initially receive £1bn in investment from the Chinese telecoms giant.

Despite being mired in controversy because of its alleged links with the Chinese Government, Huawei’s application was decided based "based entirely on consideration of its planning merits", councillors said.

Ironically, the virtual planning meeting suffered from repeated breakdowns in the Chairman’s video link, which actually resulted in him not casting a vote. With Huawei coming in, the reliability of mobile communications in the area is expected to improve.

Speaking about the planning approval, Victor Zhang, VP of Huawei, said: “It’s the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus. Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK’s broader industrial strategy.

“Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK’s leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale.”

The chairman of the planning committee, Councillor John Batchelor, said: “This looks like an excellent use of a brownfield site. It is fully in compliance with our local plan. There are significant benefits to the local area and wider, particularly in terms of improvements to infrastructure, the creation of jobs, and the protection of landscape.”

Speaking about the Huawei building’s design, a planning officer said it aims to reduce energy demands, while officers said it would be rated as “very good” overall under the BREEAM environmental assessment criteria, with “excellent” achieved for energy use and carbon reduction.

While Huawei’s role in the overall development of 5G infrastructure in the UK remains up in the air, the new R&D facility will boost the UK tech scene, especially in Cambridgeshire.

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