«Medium-Range Weather Prediction Austin Woods Medium-Range Weather Prediction The European Approach The story of the European Centre for Medium-Range ...»
Voting then took place by secret ballot. In the first round, there were eight votes for the UK, six for Denmark, and two each for the Netherlands and Ispra. The two bids that got the lowest number of votes were withdrawn. In the second round, there were 12 votes for the UK and six for Denmark. The UK bid was declared successful. In response to a question from the delegation of France, the head of the UK delegation noted again that its stand on the declaration issue had been one of principle. The UK bid had been submitted in good faith; they believed it to be technically the best and were grateful for the support now shown. He expressed his strong conviction that the UK government would in fact sign. It would be a privilege and an honour to have this Centre located in the United Kingdom. The Danish delegate offered his congratulations.
We have already seen Patrick Meade’s view in 1972 that the UK “should firmly relegate the side issues to a trivial level: the Department of Trade and Industry for example wants us to include in our paper a note on the benefits to local trade if ECMWF is to be located at or near Bracknell”. As with most internationally financed organisations, the UK has over the years gained substantial economic benefit from the Centre.
A Dutch company General Technology Systems (Netherlands) BV had made “a detailed assessment of the economic and other benefits which are created by the fact that the European Space and Technology Centre ESTEC is located in the Netherlands”. Director David Burridge commissioned the company to make a similar assessment for the Centre. The Study: “The Economic benefits to the United Kingdom as host of the International organisation ECMWF” was completed in February 1995. It used 1994 as the reference year. The economic benefit to the UK for that year was assessed to be £10,936,000 with the UK contribution to the budget being £2,564,000. This gave a benefit/cost ratio of 4.26. Taking into account economic multipliers, the increase in economic activity in the UK was £25,371,000. Also the increase in employment in the UK was the equivalent of 485 full-time jobs.
We noted in Chapter 1 that the Director Aksel Wiin-Nielsen signed a Headquarters Agreement that laid down the rights and obligations of the Centre vis-à-vis the UK as host State. There was a necessarily legalistic “Schedule of terms of occupation” attached, with an important provision.
The Owner hereby covenants with the Occupier as follows: (1) Until the expiration of twenty years from the date of occupation to repair, redecorate and otherwise maintain all the external parts of any Buildings...
68 Chapter 6The UK has arranged and paid for many costly repairs, including replacement of the large roof of the Computer Hall and strengthening its floor, and replacing all the windows in the office block. This twenty-year period expired on 12 June 1999. After negotiation, the Second Permanent Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Defence, Roger Jackling, authorised the extension of the period for a further twenty years, until 2019. In April 1999, the responsibility of the host country for maintenance of the Centre’s buildings was taken over by the Met Office.
We have seen that the site of the Centre shared a boundary with the Met Office College. Relations between the Centre’s Director and staff, and the staff of the College, were excellent from the beginning. The College was a pleasant facility, with open grassland covering much of the site. While the area of the Centre’s grounds was sufficient for its original buildings, car parks and ancillary equipment, there was limited room for expansion on its own land. With permission, which was always forthcoming, the Centre used the College grounds for sports and social purposes. It provided overflow car parking during Seminars and on other occasions when large numbers of visitors came. Large marquees were erected there when the Centre was celebrating some important event, including the official opening of the building at Shinfield Park on 15 June 1979, and the 25th anniversary of the Centre on 1 December 2000. Staff from France, Germany and Italy were introduced to the pleasures of the English game of cricket on the College grounds.
In November 2000, the Under Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Lewis Moonie, announced that the Met Office had chosen to move its headquarters from Bracknell to Exeter in the southwest of England. This meant that the Met College would move from Shinfield Park. The Centre’s Director David Burridge was taken somewhat by surprise at the announcement. He had not previously been aware of the planned move.
Since the grounds of the College were directly beside those of the Centre, and were to be sold for house building, this was a matter of serious concern for the Centre’s Council and Director. In addition to losing the longstanding use of the valuable College facilities, the Centre would face a future without the possibility to extend. And this unwelcome development coincided with an expansion of the Centre’s activities.
The Centre’s responsibilities were growing, and with them its requirement for more office accommodation and extra space for its technical equipment. There were additional activities associated with seasonal prediction and wave forecasting, involvement in processing satellite data, and increasing work involving EU-funded projects. All this meant that the In the United Kingdom 69 original space, which foresaw office accommodation for 145 permanent staff and up to 10 visiting scientists, was already insufficient for its needs.
In 1998, the Centre had leased, and had erected on the grounds, a secondhand temporary modular accommodation block. This provided 18 offices.
The building was initially leased for a five-year period. In the Financial
Statement of Accounts for 1998, the auditors commented:
While not questioning the Centre’s present difficulties to provide accommodation for its staff, we wish to emphasize that the chosen solution is only a temporary one and may not be the most economical in the long run. We hold the view that thought should soon be given to the future office accommodation needs of the Centre to be able to make a qualified decision on the actions necessary to prepare for the time after the end of the five year renting period of the temporary building.
In December 2001 the Council requested the Director to bring forward detailed proposals for consideration in spring 2002 about the Centre’s requirements for office accommodation.
Plans, including those for the Centre to become more involved in the EU/ESA Project Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES), meant that there would soon be an urgent need for additional offices. We will see below that additional space for computer equipment would also be required. Burridge asked that two acres — less than a hectare — of the College land be made available for possible future expansion.
In the view of Peter Ewins, Chief Executive of the Met Office, “the Headquarters Agreement... makes it clear that the acquisition of accommodation for future expansion is at the Centre’s own cost...The Met Office is obliged to dispose of its assets at full market value... the land... has a market value in the region of £1.5 million per acre”. Thus the land under discussion had a market value of about £3 million. Burridge did not agree with Ewins’ interpretation of the Agreement, which referred to additional buildings, not additional land. It was established practice that international organisations were provided with land free of charge by the host Country.
At the Council in December 2001, Ewins suggested that the Director write to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the government with a justification for his request.
In June 2002 the Council expressed its concern that imminent action by or on behalf of the UK government, the host of the Centre, “may constrain development of the Centre”, and passed a Resolution requesting that “the additional land could be made available to the Centre... free of charge as is the practice for international organizations”.
70 Chapter 6In December 2002 Ewins informed the Council that “the situation had moved substantially and to the benefit of the Centre... allowing a sufficient quantity of land to be provided to the Centre for its use without cost”.
However the additional plot of land made available was considerably smaller than that requested by the Centre, and far from sufficient for future needs.
Following discussions on the contract with IBM for the High Speed Computing Facility in December 2001, the Council requested the Director to review the Centre’s infrastructure requirements to ensure that the Centre was well prepared for the next Invitation to Tender or any extension of the Service contract with IBM.
At the end of 2004, the floor area available for the installation of computer equipment in the Centre’s Computer Hall was full, following completion of the installation of the IBM computer. This meant that a parallel run of a future replacement machine, of unknown architecture, would be impossible. The Council approved the Director’s proposal to extend the Computer Hall, increasing its size by 50%. Also it decided to construct an additional office block, with the extra land provided by the Met Office being used to re-site the parking area.
Throughout 2003–04 the Centre had lengthy, detailed and sometimes difficult discussions with Wokingham District Council (WDC), the local authority, in attempting to obtain permission to build an extension to the Computer Hall, together with an additional office block. WDC objected to the plans. However, permission for the Computer Hall extension was granted in November 2003, and construction began in summer 2004.
The application to build a new office block ran into major difficulties. A building in the grounds of the Met Office College, close to the Centre’s boundary, was a “Listed Building”; it thus merited special consideration, although it was in a semi-derelict state. Permission was finally given in September 2004 for construction of a re-sited block. Completion was planned for 2006.
Autumn 2004 saw an interesting development. A plot of land of 5,000 m2 beside the entrance gates to the Centre, with a building known as “Keeper’s Cottage”, was offered for sale, but with little public advertising. Several house builders, potential purchasers of the site, lost interest when they discovered that access to the site from the main road was very limited. One of these approached the Centre to enquire if he could have permission to share the Centre’s entrance as an access road to the site. Permission was refused, but Dominique Marbouty, ECMWF Director since June 2004, realized for the first time that the land was for sale. He approached the vendor as a In the United Kingdom 71 potential purchaser. A price was agreed, subject to contract, to purchase the site prior to auction, which had been planned for 20 October.
Speedy action was required if the purchase was to proceed. Marbouty approached the Chief Executive of the Met Office, the President of Council and other Member State representatives. At its meeting in December 2004, the Council approved the acquisition of the Keeper’s Cottage site, with the expectation that the UK, as the host country, would eventually finance the acquisition, thus becoming owner of the site, but making it available to the Centre.
1974 to 1980: the Formative Years
The period 1974 to 1980 was clearly a busy and exciting time with lots happening, starting so to speak with a clean sheet of paper.
Completing the building at Shinfield Park, with its computer hall, offices and conference facilities.
Dealing with the complex legal and administrative issues that arise when setting up an international organisation.
Acquiring, installing and keeping in reliable operational state the CRAY-1 mainframe computer and the Cyber 175 front-end computer.
Implementing the telecommunications system based on the Regnecentralen 8000 computer.
Setting up courses and seminars for advanced training in numerical weather prediction for the scientists of the Member States.
Designing and implementing the complex data acquisition and quality control software and archives.
Acquiring, modifying and bringing to operational state the even more complex data assimilation & modelling software.
Designing and programming the software to run the operational suite.
Completing — on time — the first operational medium-range forecasts.
The goal was clear: to turn the dreams and hopes of the early planning groups into reality.
It is impossible to do justice to such diversity of effort at the level of synthesis required by a book such as this. To combine these separate elements to form a coherent complete story is a challenge. Each deserves a chapter of its own, perhaps even a book to describe some adequately.
Within the Centre in these years, there was a great deal of hard work, anxiety and worry, but also increasing optimism, and in general a growing sense of achievement and accomplishment. Adrian Simmons and David Burridge 72 1974 to 1980: the Formative Years 73 independently remembered it as a “very exciting time”. Massimo Capaldo, a scientist newly arrived from Italy, who would years later become the Head of Operations, described the atmosphere of the Centre simply as “amazing”.
Capaldo remembered the codes being typed by secretaries and the punch cards being used, until new Video Display Units arrived. In this, his first experience of work in an international environment, he recalled the different nationalities easily working and socialising together, with progress being made in many areas of research. Jean Labrousse remembered the quality of Wiin-Nielsen’s management: defining objectives clearly and then letting the staff work in their own way to achieve these. Thanks to this, they “were never under pressure”.