DSIT-funded weather centre gets green light

Reading University will host new base for intergovernmental forecasting HQ
The proposed ECMRWF headquarters at the University of Reading Photo: Government Property Agency

By Jim Dunton

16 Feb 2024

A Department for Science, Innovation and Technology-funded project to build a new headquarters for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts has been given the go-ahead by local authority planners.

The scheme will deliver a four-storey home for ECMRWF at the University of Reading’s Whiteknights Campus on a site adjacent to the Department of Meteorology. It will be the base for around 300 scientists and staff.

ECMRWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 nation states that acts as research institute and round-the-clock operational service for weather forecasting. Its UK operations have been based at Shinfield Park, roughly two miles away from its proposed new home, since the mid-1970s.

The University of Reading is already home to parts of the Met Office, the National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences and the National Centre for Earth Observation.

A report to members of Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee, who approved the ECMRWF proposals on Wednesday, said relocating the headquarters to the university campus would allow for a “greater degree of clustering” of facilities-and knowledge sharing.

“There are aspirations to create a meteorological/climate science hub at the campus with a focus on research and development,” councillors were told.

After the decision was made to approve the scheme, Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart said ensuring the UK stays at the forefront of the global science and technology sector was essential to delivering long-term economic growth and security across the country.

“Reading is the ideal location for this new headquarters, perfectly positioned to access the university’s strong talent pipeline and create fantastic new opportunities for the next generation,” he said.

The Government Property Agency will lead on the delivery of the new headquarters with design and engineering firm AtkinsRéalis and construction company Mace. Work is due to start later this year for completion in 2026.

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