Huawei gets go-ahead for research facility near Cambridge

The centre will employ between 350 and 400 people, according to the planning application.


Chinese technology giant Huawei has been given the green light to build a research and development facility near Cambridge.

The telecommunications firm, which has faced criticism for its role in the UK’s 5G networks, submitted a planning application to South Cambridgeshire District Council.

Councillors on the authority’s planning committee approved the application on Thursday by nine votes to one.

Huawei’s application had been criticised by the Trump administration in America.

Keith Krach, US under-secretary of state for economic growth, accused Huawei of being “an extension of the Chinese government”, The Times reported, with Mr Krach adding: “We are really concerned. It is about UK national security.”

Huawei insists it is an independent, privately-held company.

The research facility to be built in Sawston village, seven miles (11km) south of Cambridge, will employ between 350 and 400 people, according to the planning application.

Chris Carter, delivery manager of the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service, told councillors at the start of Thursday’s planning meeting, held by Microsoft Teams: “Members of the committee will be aware that there has been considerable local, national and international interest in this proposal over the last week or so.

“Much of this attention has been focused on matters of security and international relations.

“I would like to remind members that in considering this application, the council can only consider the planning merits of the proposals and not the proposed occupier and user.”

He said members could consider matters such as landscape impact, heritage, ecology, sustainability and transport.

Henk Koopmans, chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies Research and Development UK, told councillors that Huawei was a “long-term, major investor and partner for the EU and the UK”.

He said the firm had invested and operated in the UK for more than 20 years and already employed 1,600 people across 20 UK offices.

“Our application has been carefully considered for transport, ecology, heritage, visual impact, noise and air quality issues,” he said.

“The council officers are content with the plans.”

Planning committee chairman John Batchelor described the application as an “excellent use of a brownfield site” and Peter Fane, Shelford ward councillor, said: “As we seem to be entering possibly the deepest recession for many years, the question of nearly 400 jobs has to be taken very seriously.”

Planning permission was granted subject to a series of planning obligations, called section 106 agreements.

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