Plans for office space and a new engineering hall at a science park have been approved with thousands of pounds promised towards improving local bus services.

The fusion research lab, Culham Science Centre near Abingdon, is set to build a 17-metre-high office building and engineering hall and a 13-metre-high multi-storey car park with 231 spaces.

The science centre is set to provide £303,000 to reinstate bus service between Culham, Abingdon, Didcot and beyond. Oxfordshire County council has said the 95-bus service, which was suspended during the Covid pandemic, could return with the funding.

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Culham Science Centre has also promised a financial contribution of £325,000 to improve the existing footpath on the entrance to the science park. And another £100,000 to enhance the existing toll gate, Abingdon Road junction and the pedestrian crossing.

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However, despite plans to fund bus services, the application plans were called out for not being environmentally friendly and councillors objected to the number of parking spaces in a South Oxfordshire District Council planning meeting.

Culham Parish Council objected to the planning application over concerns of “noise and disturbance” and that too many car parking spaces were proposed.

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In its written objection the parish council said: “The negative impact of the view from Wittenham clumps should also be considered as detrimental with the car parking in this quantity; the negative impact on ecology with this much hard standing in the plans which seems excessive to need.”

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In the planning meeting councillor Sam Casey-Rerhaye argued there is no need for 231 car park spaces as public transport is available. She said: “It is only in truly rural locations without any public transport that you would assume a high percentage of employees would need to travel to work in their car.”

Councillor Tim Bearder asked representatives from Culham Science Centre: “How will you meet all those objectives to be clean and green when you’re building 231 parking spaces?”

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However, Councillor Ian Snowdon questioned how people would get to the science park from Didcot or Long Wittenham without driving if no bus is reinstated. He added that there is no safe space to cycle, and the trains do not run frequently to Culham railway station and that employees will need to drive.

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The majority of councillors voted in favour of the plans noting the importance of the research in fusion that takes place at the science centre.

Councillor Elizabeth Gillespie said in the meeting: “This is of international and of national importance, it is really exciting, and it is important we do everything we can to make it viable.”

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