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When the site opened it was known as the Post Office Research Station, but it was subsequently renamed BT Research Laboratories or BT Labs and later Adastral Park to reflect an expansion in the organisations and activities co-located with BT Labs at the campus.
Initially research was carried out into postal sorting and delivery technology and telecommunications. After the Post Office was split apart prior to British Telecom's privatisation in the early 1980, the research concentrated on telecommunications.
In keeping with the stellar theme of the site name, buildings on site are named after stars or constellations (an example being the Main Laboratory Block now named the Orion building). The Orion building is easily recognisable from the nearby A12 road with its 200 ft. radio tower (now named Pegasus tower) dominating the skyline.
The change to the current name occurred in the late 1990s with the aim of turning the site into a high technology business park no longer exclusively for the use of BT. The name was created by Stewart Davies, the CEO of the BT business (BT Exact Technologies) headquartered at the site at that time. It is derived from the motto of the Royal Air Force – per ardua ad astra – through adversity to the stars. The Royal Air Force were prior residents of the site, as RAF Martlesham Heath. Experimental aircraft test flights flew from the airfield and the name was meant to reflect this. In March 2001, University College London, Faculty of Engineering Sciences, chose Adastral Park to set up the first-ever postgraduate research and teaching centre on an industrial campus which existed until 2009. During the transformation of the Park many of the old buildings were removed and during the landscaping, car parks were moved to the perimeter of the site with the centre being transformed with open park land and a water feature to provide a 'park' feel to the complex. The site accommodates approximately 4000 people.
There is also a satellite earth station (operated by Arqiva) - the location was chosen for the visibility of satellites on the eastern horizon.
The original Laboratories (when BT was part of the Post Office) were first opened by Elizabeth II in 1975. Prior to this the Post Office Research Station was located at Dollis Hill. Martlesham Heath was originally chosen as the location for a research facility because the surrounding countryside was relatively flat and therefore ideal for testing the radio-based communication systems in vogue at the time. See also Martlesham Heath where further history of the site and surrounding area can be found.
Adastral New Town
Over many years BT has put forward various proposals and plans to expand the business park activities. In June 2001, a framework for expanding the business park was created, but it was not linked to building any residential housing on the site. At the time BT forecast 3000–3500 additional jobs by about 2010. As recently as 2007, BT said that they could develop the business park without the need for the income from selling land for housing.
In 2006, Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) rejected a planning application for 120 log cabins on a site next to Waldringfield Road. The rejection was on the grounds that it was too near the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty amongst other reasons, and would result in an unacceptable increase in visitor numbers to a sensitive areas. BT initially objected on the grounds that it would interfere with their radio test area, although BT subsequently withdrew their objection provided the developer created a protective earth bund, rejected by SCDC.
BT subsequently lodged a planning application for 2000 houses to be built. At its closest the site comes within 88 metres (289 ft) of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and there are several sites of special status close by, such as Newbourne Springs.
- "UCL set to leave Suffolk research park".
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- "Redevelopment of Adastral Park".
- "Adastral Park Redevelopment Project: Greenfields under threat". The Guardian. 5 November 2010.
- "Suffolk Wildlife Trust " Reserves & Visitor Centres " Newbourne Springs".
- Adastral Park home page
- Connected Earth Museum on the origin of BT Laboratories, Martlesham
- Coverage from theregister.co.uk on domain grab
- Further coverage on domain grab
- No to Adastral New Town
- Press coverage over Adastral New Town