08:00AM, Saturday 23 October 2021
A campaign group has criticised a proposal to support a large science park bordering the Royal Borough with 2,000 new homes on the greenbelt – saying this is financially unnecessary.
Syngenta, a multinational agricultural science company, seeks to bring together multiple related businesses on one site in Jealott’s Hill to make a ‘science and innovation park’.
More than 115 hectares of land would need to be removed from the greenbelt.
The site lies close to the Royal Borough border and, as such, the borough’s planning team recently told the relevant local authority, Bracknell Forest Council, that it ‘continues to have strong concerns’ over the development – namely the ‘detrimental impact’ on the openness of the borough’s greenbelt and increases in traffic on roads in Bray.
According to Syngenta, the 2,000 homes would cross subsidise the park to the tune of £68.3m.
But campaign group Save Jealott’s Hill claims that the company is wealthy enough to fund its park without building thousands of homes on the greenbelt.
The group looked at Syngenta’s financial reports for 2017 to 2020 and discovered that the company paid around $6.8 billion to Syngenta’s owners CNAC Saturn.
“They’re saying they can’t find £68m to make this park but they have been able to make almost a hundred times that in dividends for their shareholders,” said the group’s campaign treasurer Charlie Griffiths.
“It’s literally pocket change to them. They’re making fools of Bracknell Forest Council.”
The campaign group has also criticised a previous comment from the Jealott’s Hill consortium (made up of Syngenta, housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and building investment company CEG).
A spokesman had said that the company cannot invest millions of pounds of resources into a development which is intended for third party use as well.
Charlie said: “They’ve already said that without third parties, the facility has no future – and that the park is so important, we should give up greenbelt land for it.
“But what they’re basically saying here is, it’s not important enough for them to dip into their own pocket. It’s either worth doing or it’s not. If it is, they can afford to pay for it.”
For Jealott’s Hill plans to go ahead, the land must be allocated for development in the emerging Bracknell Forest Local Plan.
This is subject to an independent review by a Government planning inspector. Bracknell Forest Council intends to submit the plan in late October or early November.
A spokesperson for the Jealott’s Hill consortium said:
"An innovation cluster at Jealott’s Hill focused on green and climate technologies would deliver significant, ongoing, economic benefit to the UK.
A garden village, along with the new infrastructure and facilities proposed, would help to support this vision, attracting other companies to this International Research Centre and boosting the local economy.
Syngenta will invest in multimillion pound new buildings and facilities for its business, this, alongside the £200million R&D budget Syngenta invests annually into Jealott’s Hill each year, supports 850 jobs.
The garden village would cross subsidise the new schools, health provision, leisure and sports provision, transport improvements and the wider Science & Innovation Park."
Bracknell Forest Council has declined to comment.
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