New housing estate could block Exeter Met Office data signals
British weather forecasting could be disrupted by plans to surround the Exeter-based Met Office with a large housing estate, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has warned.
Predictions are based on data from around half a million daily signals received at the organisation's headquarters from satellites and buoys stationed around the world.
Forecasters fear these crucial signals, recording temperature, humidity and wind speeds, could be blocked by proposals to build 750 homes on farmland bordering its building on three sides.
The Met Office warned that the data was "fundamental" to its ability to accurately predict weather patterns, a key concern for businesses, motorists, tourists and people living in flood-risk areas.
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A spokesman said the proximity of the development to receivers was a "concern".
"The satellite data we receive through this is important to our operational forecasting capabilities.
"Development to the north and west of the Met Office site in particular could potentially disrupt these satellite tracking systems.
"We are currently liaising with the developer and Exeter City Council to overcome these concerns."
The nationally important weather station and climate change research centre currently enjoys a semi-rural setting, on the outskirts of the city close to the M5 motorway. Plans to urbanise some 57 acres of farmland currently used for wheat and maize production will effectively encircle the building.
The proposed development, by the Hill Barton Consortium, is part of Exeter City Council's growth plans, which proposes around 2,500 houses be built in the Monkerton/Hill Barton area along with a new train stop to serve the new community.
Some objectors have raised concerns about the effect on local traffic and the road network.
However, the city council's head of housing does not object, provided the developer hands over £2.25 million for road and roundabout improvements.
A quarter of the homes – 188 – will be set aside as affordable housing units.
The MoD, which represents the Met Office on planning issues, has highlighted concerns, ahead of a planning meeting on Monday.
The application has generated 30 objections, including claims that too many houses are crammed into the space.
MoD officials believe radio interference "may also occur during and after the construction phase".
Officials have demanded specific conditions be imposed on some residents' permitted development rights.
They also want a say on landscaping proposals to make sure any trees do not obscure the "transmission line of sight".