move or not to move is the question facing hundreds of Met Office
employees as the organisation relocates from Bracknell to Exeter.
It is a massive undertaking, and it began in October 2001, when
building work on the new building at Sowton got under way.
The £150m project is one of the biggest IT moves ever seen
in Europe, with 1,150 staff upping sticks along with all of that
highly sensitive computer equipment.
just over 12 months to go before the majority of jobs are relocated,
many Met Office employees are now being issued with their notices
of posting. But not everyone wants to make the move to Devon.
Administrator Dot Burton is among those who have decided to stay
put. She said:"I wouldn't know anyone down there, expect for Met
Office people - and I like my friends here."
down...the office in Bracknell
manager Robin Thwaytes did not want to move either. But having always
dreamt of being a weather forecaster since the age of 10, he feels
he has little option but to come to Exeter.
"I'm a Met Office person through and through - so I'll go where
the Met Office goes," he said. "I don't think I'd find a job that
I'd like outside the Met Office.
suppose I could get a job in Sainsbury's stacking shelves, but it's
not quite the same."
is expected that around 70% of the existing staff will move - that's
some 800 employees and their families. Many have already bought
houses in Devon.
Steve English is moving to Feniton this summer with his wife and
three daughters and plans to commute back to Bracknell until his
post is transferred to Exeter.
As a family, they did not want to leave their home in Farnham. But
like Robin Thwaytes, Steve wanted to keep his job: "When we first
heard the announcement the initial reaction was we don't want to
"But we had time to look at our options and decide what was the
best thing for us and to go down and visit the area and get to know
it better. And gradually we started to come round to the idea that
it will be OK."
For some, the decision to move to Devon was easy. Weather forecaster
Steve Randall's home is still in Plymouth from the days when he
worked at Plymouth weather centre.
is looking forward to working back in the county again: "I can't
wait," he said.
"I'm counting the days down because for seven years I've had
to go away for several days at a time and then go home to my family,
but now when we do move I'll be able to go to work and go home on
the same day. I'm really looking forward to that."
site where the new building is being built at Sowton
researcher Chris Hewitt was also delighted when the opportunity
to move to Exeter came up, having previously studied at Exeter University:
"I'd had three years there and thoroughly enjoyed it.
since I left Exeter, I've been wanting to go back there but I enjoy
working for the Met Office so I had a bit of a dilemma really. Now
it turns out I can carry on working for the Met Office and go to
Exeter, so I'm very pleased indeed."
Employees and their families are being helped by a specialist relocation
team which is also responsible for organising the office move.
team manager Kirby James said it is a mammoth task: "We've actually
got to catalogue all the things which are going and we have a system
of coloured dots which we can stick on the computers, so we can
actually mark them as to whether they're going or not.
team is helping staff to find houses by displaying copies of the
local evening paper the Express and Echo in all offices.
Estate agent Richard Copus says the prices in parts of Bracknell
and the Exeter area are about the same and those hoping to upgrade
may be disappointed.
he believes supply could be the main difficulty Met Office house
"The problem in the whole of the south of England is that everyone
seems to want to live here," he said.
will feel the squeeze...
The influx of Met Office families is also set to boost numbers in
Devon schools. Around 45 children of Met Office families are currently
at school in Devon, but by September 2003 around 400 are expected.
director of education, Tony Smith, is faced with finding them all
a place in what is already a tight squeeze, particularly in secondary
said: "We're at a stage where there's a pretty close fit between
the number of pupils and the number of places. That means whenever
there are additional pupils, we've got to build.
"It's fine when a new housing estate goes up, but these several
hundred pupils will be spread across Devon and it will be quite
difficult to second guess where they're going to live."
welcome the influx
The relocation will also have a huge impact on the local economy.
of the new building is already well underway, on the site at Sowton
which the Met Office will occupy.
Some sections could be occupied as early as Spring 2003, as computer
equipment is installed, with the bulk of staff set to move in during
the autumn of 2003.
Weather forecasters will be among the first to relocate and a key
date is July 2003, when it is expected that control of the Met Office
weather centre will transfer from Bracknell to Exeter.