Huawei Site Sawston

Huawei Granted Approval for $1.2bn research base in UK

Huawei’s plans for a new £1.2 billion research and development centre in Sawston have been approved by South Cambridgeshire district councillors Thursday, despite the disapproval of the US government.

Councillors gave the go-ahead for Huawei to build the high-end facility in Sawston, a small village near Cambridge. And that approval is bound to anger U.S. President Donald Trump.

Councillors voted 9-1 in favour of granting planning permission, with only Cllr Deb Roberts voting against it, and the chair Cllr Batchelor was unable to vote because he lost signal too many times on the remote meeting.

Huawei Site Sawston

The new center is planned by Huawei for researching and developing chips to be used in Britain’s 5G broadband network.

Henk Koopmans, CEO at Huawei Technologies Research & Development (UK), told the council’s planning committee that he hoped most of the company’s staff in Ipswich would move to this site, where 367 are expected to be employed in total.

The 50,000 square feet R&D centre will be used to conduct research in the field of photonics – the technology of generating and harnessing light, which has many applications, including in fibre optic broadband, data storage, lasers, electro-optical devices and other fields.

There will also be about 9,500 square metres of office space.

Huawei submitted initial plans in summer 2019, but withdrew them following concerns over the impact on the landscape and the visual effect of the buildings.

Planning officers said the revised plans considered today featured a building that was “much more sympathetic” in its design. A report spelled out how it will include features to reduce energy demand and satisfied questions over underground water contamination and water demand.

A travel plan to reduce the use of cars has been drawn up, featuring a new cycle and pedestrian path that will link the A1301 and Whittlesford Road.

Huawei will fund improvements to the A1301/Mill Lane junction to aid cyclists and pedestrians, along with further improvements to the northern arm of the A1301/A505 roundabout.

Huawei Site Sawston

The U.S. administration is reported to be furious that Huawei’s application to the local authority was even put in for consideration – let alone approved. Trump has waged a long-term campaign against Huawei on what he alleges are security grounds.

South Cambridgeshire council’s planning chief, Tumi Hawkins, said of the reported U.S. anger at the plan:

“There has been a lot of wider comment on this proposal but when we determine planning applications, we can only take into account what are called material planning considerations when coming to a decision.

“These include national and local planning policies and the consideration of issues such as how the building fits into its surroundings and impacts on local roads. Whether the applicant is a small, local sole trader or a large multi-national company, we must follow these same rules. To the planning system, it does not matter who the applicant is.

“Having spent over 12 months working with the applicants and their technical team on this proposal, the council concluded that against these requirements, the planning application should be approved.”

As for Washington’s accusations, Huawei denies the company is a security risk. It is a privately owned company and not subject to Chinese government influence, said a spokesperson.

Huawei has been operating in Britain for 20 years and currently employs 1,600 people.

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said the new site was a perfect location.

“Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities and local industry,” said Zhang, “we want to advance optical communications technology, while doing our part to support the UK’s broader industrial strategy.

“The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer.”

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