LONDON - The idea of building a UK biotechnology cluster around one of the world's premier genomics research institutes was stopped because the government refused planning permission for the development around the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge.

The refusal, after two public inquiries, came in the same month the government published results of its investigation into factors that promote the growth of clusters and announced grant aid to encourage their formation.

The planning application was submitted by the medical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, which set up the Wellcome campus to house the UK's contribution to the Human Genome Project. The campus also is home to the European Bioinformatics Research Institute. The trust's vision was for a #100 million (US$160 million) development at the site to provide 40,000 square meters of office and laboratory accommodation for genomics companies spun out of the research institutes, and others attracted to the area by the proximity of some of the leading genomics researchers. The trust estimated the site would create 1,000 jobs.

As the process of seeking approval has dragged on, the Wellcome Trust has said refusal would signal the government is not truly committed to the development of the UK biotech sector, and that the UK would lose its lead in genomics.

In refusing to let the plan go ahead, the government stressed it was not against biotechnology or such clusters per se, but that the development would not have been appropriate in this part of Cambridge, which is not zoned for commercial use. The Wellcome Trust, the world's largest medical charity, puts more money into biomedical research than the government.

The government has asked the Wellcome Trust to submit scaled-down plans for the site.