DORSET Council has approved a £14.6 million investment in the Dorset Innovation Park on the former Winfrith nuclear site.

It could create an additional 1,200 jobs in the years to come.

The investment will pay for the delivery of ten new light industrial units costing £3.1m and a four-year capital investment costing £11.5m which will bring wider benefits over a longer period.

That could include buying a six hectare plot of land close to the county police headquarters to expand the site; improving the security gate building; adding two new industrial or office buildings and creating a shared ‘amenity hub’ which the council claims will add to the sense of community on the site.

Portfolio holder for the project, Tony Ferrarri, said the Dorset Enterprise Zone had been extremely successful with no available space at the current time.

He described the venture, delivered in partnership with the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, as “bold and ambitious,” claiming it had the potential to create up to 2,000 jobs, including apprenticeship positions.

One of the two ward councillors, Laura Miller, welcomed the investment – saying her father used to work at the site when it was an experimental nuclear base.

She said she recalled visiting the site on a family open day as a child and being allowed to don gloves and “move glowing stuff around” – something which Cllr Ferrari said would not be happening on the site today, or in the near future.

He said that the new units being created were likely to produce more local jobs – unlike the Defence BattleLab facility, which had been created with the help of the Ministry of Defence, where workers were ‘parachuted in’ to work there for relatively short periods of time on specific projects, although this brought with it benefits for local hotels, b&bs and hospitality businesses.

Cllr Ferrari said the site currently had 34 businesses based there, providing 794 jobs, many of them operating in the defence and security sectors and advanced engineering.

The four-year plan will be further developed and incorporated into the council's  future capital budget proposals, which will be considered by Cabinet and the full council in January and February 2023.

Said Cllr Ferrari: “These bold and ambitious plans for the Dorset Innovation Park are vitally important for the local economy and should demonstrate our serious commitment to developing the site and supporting the many businesses there, both now and in the future.”