Agenda item

P22/S1410/FUL - Land in the North East Corner of Culham Science Centre near Clifton Hampden, OX14 3DB

Erection of a Fusion Demonstration Plant with ancillary office space, parking, landscaping and associated infrastructure, including plant and machinery.


The committee considered planning application P22/S1410/FUL for the erection of a Fusion Demonstration Plant with ancillary office space, parking, landscaping and associated infrastructure, including plant and machinery, on land at Land in the North East Corner of Culham Science Centre near Clifton Hampden.  


Consultations, representations, policy and guidance, and the site’s planning history were detailed in the officer’s report, which formed part of the agenda pack for the meeting. 


The planning officer introduced the report and highlighted that, since the report was published, two further neighbour consultation letters had been received taking the total to eight, and the Environment Agency had checked the environmental constraints and stated that the only environmental risks pertained to ground water contamination. The planning officer confirmed that the contaminated land officer had reviewed the submitted contained risk and remediation strategy and was satisfied that this addressed the phase 2 risk assessment and phase 3 remediation strategy. Therefore, the planning officer confirmed that condition 19 of the officer’s report was no longer required and condition 20 should refer only to a validation report.


The planning officer informed members that the application was brought to committee due to its scale and potential national and international importance and that the site was used by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency to development nuclear technology. The site itself was 3.8 hectares, located in the north-eastern side of the science centre, and was scheduled to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The majority of the science centre was built upon, but the proposed building would be a new development.


The planning officer also confirmed that the building was for a fusion demonstration plant to test the technology with a view to improve and refine the technology prior to commercialisation and was not for commercial use. The building would be just over 10,000 square metres in area, 7,000 square metres for process spaces and 3,000 square metres for offices and support. The demonstration hall was 38 metres in height with a diameter of 50 metres and clad in a translucent plastic material, whereas the support offices were clad in metal. The site would also have 47 car parking spaces, and a covered space for 30 cycles.


Members noted that there were no objections raised from technical specialists apart from the landscaping and conservation officers due to the landscape impact, particularly for long distance views, and its impact on the registered park and garden. However, the planning officer informed members that as the harm was considered to be indirect and exclusively to the setting, the impact was considered less than substantial in the National Planning Policy Framework and the Local Plan. A further point was made that the existing Joint European Torus (JET) building was wider and would likely have more of an impact that the proposed development in the application.


The planning officer then clarified the point about lighting and confirmed that only the bottom of the demonstration hall would be lit, although a curfew could be agreed through conditions.


The planning officer also informed the committee that the site was taken out of the Green Belt through the Local Plan to support the intensification of the science centre and that the land to the west was also released from the Green Belt to allow for the creation of homes, which would be used in order to create a more sustainable community. The planning officer believed that the application represented a significant investment which would support many jobs, direct and indirect, and the results of which could have clear international benefits. In addition, the site was also cited by central government in its fusion strategy for its potential in fusion technology and the planning officer informed members that planning weight should be given to the site for this potential.


Finally, the planning officer believed that any harm to landscape and the garden was outweighed by the other factors described above and therefore recommended that the application be approval, subject to conditions.



Steven Sensecall and Katherine Jones, the agents for the application, Mathew Wilkinson, the architect, Matthew Bloodworth, from General Fusion, and Ian Wallace and Steven Clews, from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency, spoke in support of the application.


Councillor Sam Casey-Rerhaye, a local ward councillor, spoke objecting to the application. 



The committee had conducted a site visit prior to the discussion of the application. Members asked the planning officer about the size of the proposed building and noted that, although it was taller than the JET building on the site, the JET building was much wider.


A question was also raised as to how much significance central government had put on the application and whether government would step in through a planning appeal if the application was refused. Although not confirming if the government would step in during a potential appeal, the planning officer did cite the United Kingdom’s fusion strategy which cited the application at the science centre as a sign of the governments very clear interest.


The committee expressed some concerns around the level and colour of lighting, specifically in the symbolic/feature lighting of the demonstration building. However, members were satisfied that through conditions, the lighting could be controlled and that a review period could be placed on the symbolic lighting.


Overall, members agreed that the site was of significant importance both nationally and internationally and that the impact on the surrounding park was considered less than substantial. For these reasons, members agreed to approve the application with the provision of more detail about lighting and an implementation of a review period for the symbolic lighting.



A motion, moved and seconded, to authorise the head of planning, in consultation with the chair of the Planning Committee, to approve the planning application, was carried on being put to the vote, with the additional conditions for more detail about the lighting and for a three year review period for the symbolic lighting.  


RESOLVED: to authorise the head of planning, in consultation with the chair of the Planning Committee, to approve planning application P22/S1410/FUL, subject to the following conditions:


a) The completion of a S106 agreement for infrastructure outlined in in the

report towards improvements of the local bus services to Culham Science

Centre and monitoring of an approved Travel Plan: and


b) The following conditions:

1. Commencement

2. Approved Plans

3. Schedule of Materials to be submitted

4. BREEAM Standard - Excellent

5. Energy Statement Verification

6. Cycle parking facilities to be submitted

7. Green Travel Plan to be submitted

8. Landscaping (incl hardsurfacing and boundary treatment) to be submitted

9. Landscape Management Plan to be submitted

10.Arboricultural Statement and Tree Protection Plan to be submitted

11.Ecological Impact Assessment – development to be in compliance with

12.Biodiversity Enhancement Plan to be submitted

13.Biodiversity Offsetting Scheme to be entered in to

14.Detailed surface water drainage scheme to be submitted

15.SuDS compliance report to be submitted

16.Foul drainage scheme to be submitted

17.Construction Environment Management Plan to be submitted

18.Hours of construction

19.Contaminated Lane validation report to be submitted

20.Contaminated Land unsuspected contamination encountered

21.Noise impact assessment – in compliance with

22.Lighting details to be submitted specifying seasonal curfew, with a review period of three years to allow for adjustments to the lighting strategy, specifically in relation to the Demonstration Hall

23.Details of External Areas to be submitted


Supporting documents: