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Windfall lifeline for troubled lab

DARESBURY Laboratory has unveiled plans for a multi-million pound facelift prompting fresh optimism over the future of the site.

DARESBURY Laboratory has unveiled plans for a multi-million pound facelift prompting fresh optimism over the future of the site.

A visitor and business centre will form the centrepiece of the refurbishment funded by a £4.55m Government windfall - a clear sign, according to science chiefs, that ministers are committed to keeping the facility open.

The unit will operate as a one-stop-shop crammed with information for the thousands of users and investors the laboratory gets each year.

The existing computer hall will be upgraded and improved in preparation for the expected expansion of the lab's advanced computing activities.

Other projects include the creation of an extra building to house the SuperSTEM project - a £5m programme led by Liverpool University to build a scanning, tunnelling electron microscope and new heating system.

The planned revamp comes only weeks after union leaders warned that some of the finest scientific minds were leaving Daresbury Laboratory because of growing uncertainty over the availability of a £157m rescue package.

The cash was promised in March by then Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers as an attempt to secure the future of the site and Casim, a project which could lead to advances in the treatment of cancer.

But in order to win the package, the lab must prove there is a scientific case for bringing the work to the North West in a process which could take months.

Hywel Price, director of Daresbury Laboratory, said news of the upgrade had improved confidence in the centre's long-term future.

'There appears to have been a conflict of information about the future of Daresbury, but it is not likely there would be almost £5m spent on refurbishing the laboratory if there was any danger of it closing,' he said.

'The Casim scheme is currently working its way through the proper channels and we have to submit a complete proposal before the end of the year and a final decision will be taken in about February.'

The proposed work is part of a £15m allocation from the Department of Trade and Industry to bring CLRC Daresbury Laboratory and its Oxford counterpart up-to-date.

Professor John Wood, CLRC chief executive, said: 'This investment is the start of a much-needed development programme that will bring the basic fabric of Daresbury Laboratory to the same high standard as the excellent science that is carried out at the facility.'


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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