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Uttlesford District Council invests £20m in Weston Innovation Centre deal to help fund core services

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Uttlesford District Council has made a £20m investment in the new Weston Innovation Centre in Takeley.

The authority has bought the building and will lease the headquarters back to housebuilder the Weston Group.

It is banking on an annual net rental income of about £600,000 a year over the next 25 years.

Weston Innovation Centre (42648185)
Weston Innovation Centre (42648185)

To fund the project, Uttlesford is using a mix of interest-only and fixed borrowing. The anticipated revenue will underpin core council services.

In a statement, the council, which is controlled by the Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) group, said there had been a "robust process of due diligence" by commercial agent Mark Liell and international law firm Hogan Lovells before contracts were signed.

In addition, the deal has been scrutinised by the council's cross-party investment board, which includes two independent members.

Cllr Neil Reeve, UDC's portfolio holder for the economy and investment, said: "This is an excellent investment which will help the long-term financial stability of the council. It means we can ensure vital core services can keep running as well as giving the opportunity to put more money into important areas such as the climate change agenda.

"Each potential investment goes through a robust assessment process so residents can be confident that only those which meet our exacting standards will be progressed."

The council's acquisition of the Weston Innovation Centre coincides with its official opening. The state-of-the-art facility boasts a hotel-style entrance, brasserie restaurant, bar/lounge, multi-storey atrium with designer staircase, and gymnasium with luxury changing facilities. It was built by Weston as an addition to its business park complex, close to Stansted Airport.

The council's investment is one of several to have been completed in recent months – others include purchase of a veterinary hospital, a retail park and a regional distribution centre. Further investment in Chesterford Research Park, which the council already owns 50% of, is also planned.

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