Public Health England has been granted planning permission for its proposals to create a “world leading” science campus and headquarters in Harlow.
When it is fully operational the new facility will bring together around 2,750 staff from the Department of Health agency’s current sites, including Porton in Wiltshire, Colindale in north London, and its current central London headquarters.
It will be based at the New Frontiers Science Park, former premises of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, where it will reuse existing large laboratory buildings as well as see the construction of new laboratories, additional office accommodation and a public arrivals area.
Harlow Council last week gave outline approval to the proposals for the centre – to be known as PHE Harlow – but further detailed approvals will be required for some aspects of the plans.
PHE said it expected to be able to commence site preparations next year ahead of starting construction work in 2019.
The organisation anticipates phased occupation to begin in 2021 with the site becoming fully operational in 2024. Documents submitted along with PHE’s planning application suggested that on-site staff numbers could eventually rise by a further 500 after 2024.
PHE deputy chief executive Richard Gleave said the campus was critical to the future of the organisation and that Harlow’s go-ahead would ensure staff were able to use the latest scientific advances to deliver world-leading science and evidence for issues such as smoking, alcohol, diabetes, dementia, infectious diseases and environmental hazards.
“This landmark decision is one of the most important not just for PHE but also for the nation’s health,” he said.
“It allows us to build on the incredible work we already do to deliver some of the best public health science in the world.
“PHE Harlow will be a world-leading national and international resource and this approval could not come at a better time.
“Every year we face new challenges both at home and abroad and the public should rest assured that this decision will see us even better prepared to tackle these head on.”
PHE said Harlow had been identified as a key location because it is within the London-Cambridge corridor, which is one of the leading life science research zones in Europe, offering opportunities to collaborate with a range of commercial, academic and public-sector partners.
Councillor Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said:
“This decision signals a key moment in building Harlow’s tomorrow. PHE’s move is part of the regeneration of Harlow – making it a better place to live, work and visit. This development and investment in our town, and the investment which will follow, will play a major part in Harlow’s bright future. New jobs and opportunities for local people and local businesses will be created and Harlow will be placed on the world map.
“Once again Harlow will lead the way as the place for protecting and improving lives. This development directly benefits the town and the businesses and people already living here.
“Together we are committed to ensuring that local people and local businesses take the opportunities the public health science campus will bring to Harlow.”