Controversial Huawei research centre given green light by Cambridgeshire councillors

The proposed new centre in Sawston. Credit: Huawei

The Chinese technology giant Huawei has been given the go ahead to build a new research and development facility in Cambridgeshire.

The centre will be built in the village of Sawston near Cambridge and will employ between 350 and 400 people.

Huawei said it would invest £1 billion in the first phase of the project, and the campus will be built on 500 acres of land the company bought in 2018.

Councillors from South Cambridgeshire District approved the planning application on Thursday by nine votes to one.

The facility would employ between 350-400 people. Credit: Huawei

"The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer," said Victor Zhang, Vice President of Huawei.

"It's the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus. Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK's broader Industrial Strategy. Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK's leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale."

The telecommunications firm has faced criticism for its role in the UK's 5G networks and their application was recently criticised by the Trump administration in America who accused the accused the company of being "an extension of the Chinese government".

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins, said he was aware of the controversy surrounding the application, but added the council could only take into consideration "material planning considerations."

“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," he said.

"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.”