The new arrivals centre will replace the existing gatehouse at the park, situated to the south of Sittingbourne, including room for a 24-hour security team, offices for management and a new marketing suite.
The £1.5 million building will use sustainable materials and techniques, including a ‘wildlife roof garden’ to improve insulation and promote biodiversity, in an attempt to address environmental concerns.
Councillors agreed at a meeting of Swale council’s planning committee last Wednesday to go ahead with the plans, despite opposition from nearby parish councils, who fear that this latest development will set a precedent for future development including potentially up to 4,500 new homes to help fund a link road between the M2 and A2.
The park management say the new building is part of a £25 million investment programme that will create another 500 jobs over the next four to five years.
Site director James Speck said: “We are determined to lead by example and this decision will enable us to dramatically improve the first impression for people arriving at Kent Science Park.
“This investment will create a significantly more efficient building than the existing one and is consistent with the environmental philosophy of ourselves, our tenants, suppliers and owners.
“The current building does not do justice to the many exciting businesses on site by missing an opportunity to properly introduce visitors. It importantly also enhances the arrival experience and will also improve traffic flow in and out of the park.”
A spokesman for the Five Parishes Opposition Group, which represents the surrounding villages of Tunstall, Bapchild, Bredgar, Milstead and Rodmersham, argued that the existing park site should be used better before expansion is allowed.
He said: “While Kent Science Park sees the application as being integral to their five year expansion programme, the permission does not in any way preclude expansion beyond the existing security fence.
“The park has to meet a number of conditions as laid out in the Swale Local Plan before they can even contemplate progressing these plans.
“It remains one of the most underutilised science parks in the UK in terms of occupancy per square foot of accommodation.”
The construction of the new building will take in the region of 12 months and should be ready for occupation by the end of 2009.