Government-backed high-tech weather centre to set up shop in Reading

The Berkshire town’s university has been picked as the site for a new facility intended to provide forecasting services to help inform policy and operations for 35 governments across Europe

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology-funded project to build a new high-tech 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 ECMWF 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, and will be kitted out with “state-of-the-art” tech and data systems.

ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 35 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.

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A report to members of Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee, who approved the ECMWF 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.

Sam Trendall

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