A £62 million investment into the James Hutton Institute (JHI) in Invergowrie could be in jeopardy if Tay Cities deal cash is not handed over in the next five years.
The science facility is using money from the Tay Cities Deal to develop an international barley hub and advanced plant growth centre which backers believe will allow it to continue competing on the global stage.
But members of a cross-council committee to oversee the deal fear their pleas for £40 million of UK Government funding to be released early have fallen on deaf ears, putting the project at risk.
The Tay Cities Region Deal joint committee, made up of councillors from Dundee, Angus, north east Fife and Perth and Kinross, as well as other partners, have asked that the 15-year plan for the £300 million deal be reduced to 10 years.
The committee has also asked that the JHI project be brought forward to be included in the first five years of investment in a “side deal” for the facility.
It is feared if the JGI investment is not delivered in the first five years, the project will become outdated compared to future technology and unviable to increasing construction costs.
It is hoped the deal will be signed off following the Chancellor’s Autumn statement but the UK Government has yet to agree to provide their share of the cash over 10 years instead of 15, in line with the Scottish Government.
At a meeting of the committee on Tuesday afternoon, members agreed to sign off on the deal in its current form but reiterated pleas for the funding to be provided early.
Dundee City Council leader John Alexander warned that if the Institute’s funding is not released within the first five years of the deal being signed, it’s future could be at risk
“We are saying yes we want this money because this is jobs and investment, it’s about people’s livelihoods,” he said.
“It’s also about making sure we are delivering projects in the timescales they are going to be most viable.
“JHI needs to be treated with the respect it deserves and by pushing that out further is not in anyone’s interests. We need to make the case to the UK Government that doing that is putting the project, and even the institution, at risk and that is unacceptable.”
It comes almost two years after the heads of terms agreement outlining the deal was signed in November 2018.
Perth and Kinross council leader Murray Lyle said: “The best way of making progress is to agree to sign today but continue to lobby and seek to improve what is before us.”
Project leaders say the barley hub will provide the institute with a “unique platform” to translate its barley research into economic benefits for the food, brewing and whisky industries, while also becoming an internationally recognised training and development centre.
The plant growth centre will help the institute develop its vertical farming technology.
In addition to the new hubs the masterplan seeks to develop new farm buildings, demolish existing buildings and refurbish other parts of the centre.
Ground works, including new roads, footpaths and a car park, will be developed.
It had been hoped the work could begin this summer and be completed by Christmas 2022 but delays to signing the deal has set this back.
In a letter to the committee, Iain Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Scotland Office, said he was “unable to commit” to a special deal for the James Hutton Institute.
A UK Government spokesman added: “Our £150 million investment in the Tay Cities Deal will deliver a huge, long-term boost to the area’s economy and all partners are working hard to progress it.”