Downham Market hub pics up speed

Aventa event at Downham Market 'Aventa project at The priory centre.'LtoR, John Richards (OBE),  John Beer, Lady Angela Oswald, Michael Carrick,  John Doyle (Mayor DMKT) Cllr Robin Pegg, Annabelle Lloyd-Carrick. ANL-150302-165703009

Aventa event at Downham Market 'Aventa project at The priory centre.'LtoR, John Richards (OBE), John Beer, Lady Angela Oswald, Michael Carrick, John Doyle (Mayor DMKT) Cllr Robin Pegg, Annabelle Lloyd-Carrick. ANL-150302-165703009

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A planning application to transform the former RAF Downham into an educational and business hub will be submitted in the next few weeks.

Aventa Capital Partners is hoping to start work on the £170 million project to build the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering in the autumn.

More than 4,600 permanent jobs with a further 1,500 construction jobs will be created when the 70 acre site is transformed over the next three years.

Plans for the site include 10 commercial and research buildings, a conference centre along with the Institute of Data Science building, which will accommodate 300 students and a business incubator centre.

The centre aims to raise aspirations and bridge the current skills gap in interpreting the masses of data which is produced in a range of industries.

The project, which was revealed in the Lynn News last year, is now picking up pace with Parsons Brinkerhoff being appointed as its infrastructure development consultants with Balfour Beatty as the construction consultants.

The outline planning application for the educational establishments and the commercial properties is due to be submitted to West Norfolk Council in the coming weeks.

Aventa managing director John Beer, who lives in Downham, said: “We are delighted to have completed our first significant step in creating a world class facility in Downham.

“Big Data and Knowledge Engineering are going to be very important to the UK and global economies and the UK has already established itself as a world leader. Downham is the perfect place for the centre to be based as it is equidistant between Cambridge and Norwich, where there are already established technology-based businesses and education hubs, and has good access to London and major UK airports.”

The College of West Anglia will also be involved in the project and there are hopes for a new building for Downham Academy.

The Institute for Data Science can accommodate 300 students and there are plans for a 200 student hall of residence.

There will be a small number of shops and cafes on the campus along with road improvements.

There are also plans for a hotel, conference centre along with an business incubator/spin out centre.

International companies and universities are also interested in having space at the development along with British companies which are keen to move out of expensive Cambridge.

Mr Beer said: “Last autumn we showcased our plans to Chinese investors at a UKTI event in London and received some very encouraging interest. Companies locating themselves in Downham at the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering will have direct access to the highly qualified graduates of the Institute. And, working with regional universities, the College of West Anglia and its five academies, for Downham Market itself it offers the youngsters in the area a really attractive career path and a sustainable long term boost to the local economy.”

More than 40 people, including Downham mayor John Doyle, went to an event in Downham on Tuesday to learn more about the project, which received a positive response.

Mr Beer said: “There is still a long way to go before we have the campus built but Tuesday was all about marking progress towards our vision and to demonstrate the amount of support we have from the local community to get this up and running as soon as we can.”

Downham mayor Mr Doyle said: “It is absolutely fantastic for the town. It will be wonderful for the young people in the area who will have a world class facility on their doorstep.”