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Extended SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank approved for construction

Artist impression of the new SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank by night. Credit: HASSELL

Jodrell Bank, UK, Thursday 25 August 2016 – The new SKA Global Headquarters at Jodrell Bank – an extension of the current facilities to house more staff as the project ramps up – has been approved by the local planning authority.

The Cheshire East Planning Authority has unanimously approved the application for the erection of new single storey research and administration building and associated landscape, car parking and road works connecting to the existing building to form the new SKA Headquarters.

“This is an important milestone towards constructing the headquarters of the international organisation that will build and operate the SKA.” said Colin Greenwood, Head of Administration at SKA Organisation. “We now look forward to the start of construction, and of course, inauguration of this new state-of-the-art facility.”

When completed, the building will be able to hold up to 135 staff, providing research and office space as well as catering facilities for the organisation that will supervise the international effort to build and operate the world’s largest radio telescope. Due to its international status, the building will also include a council chamber in which representatives of the inter-governmental organisation’s Member States will convene. The Chamber will also double as an auditorium for science conferences and public lectures.

The proposed design takes inspiration from the radio waves that are at the heart of the SKA’s work while embracing its natural environment.

“The SKA headquarters is an extremely high-tech building, surrounded by farmland,” said HASSELL Principal Architect Oliver Kampshoff “and so the design plays on the contrast between the cutting edge science taking place within the building and the rural life taking place around it.”

The £16.5 million new SKA Headquarters is funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Manchester with contributions from Cheshire East Council. The design is led by HASSELL and the construction by the firm Sir Robert McAlpine.

“The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank site is iconic for radio astronomy and much loved by the general public who visit the Discovery Centre in their tens of thousands every year. We were delighted when the decision to host the SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank was made in 2015. Our astronomers and engineers are playing a significant role in this revolutionary new telescope and  obtaining planning permission for the new building is a key milestone. We very much look forward to seeing the development move forward over the next year.” said Prof. Stephen Watts, Head of the School of Physics at the University of Manchester.

Cheshire East Council Leader Rachel Bailey said: “Jodrell Bank plays a very important role in the Cheshire East visitor economy and is also recognised for the ground-breaking work carried out there in the fascinating field of astrophysics. The Lovell telescope is a very famous landmark and helps to put Cheshire East on the map as a great place to live and explore. It is also an exciting place where our very young school children and university students can learn about the amazing work carried out there. The Borough is very fortunate to have such a high-profile facility which is poised to enter a new phase as headquarters to the global Square Kilometre Array space research project.”

Early works are due to start in December 2016 and construction is expected to last around 12 months. A webpage with more information about the building is available here.

About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.

Already supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope. Construction of the SKA is set to start in 2018, with early science observations in 2020.


Mathieu Isidro
Deputy Communications Manager
SKA Organisation
tel: +441613069681