Boost for West Sussex economy as plans unveiled for pioneering business park

A pioneering project to transform a disused site into a world renowned centre for cutting-edge health and life science companies was today (Thursday 7 January 2016) unveiled by West Sussex County Council.

In a landmark deal for the county, West Sussex has agreed to purchase the 19.6 acre Horsham site of global health care company Novartis, subject to contract. It now plans to transform the site into a new science park that will host leading firms in life-saving research work and the development of innovative technology.

The development will be a major boost for the West Sussex economy and is set to bring up to 1,000 jobs to the county. It puts West Sussex on track to become a leading European centre for the health and life sciences sector.

West Sussex is already home to more than 90 companies working in this field and the new science park will lure more leading companies to the county, bringing high quality jobs to the county. 
The site will also provide a home for fledgling firms starting out in the sector who could grow to become the big employers of the future.

Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: "This is a really exciting prospect for the county. Our vision is to create a world renowned centre of excellence building on the site's respected history with Novartis. It will deliver a science and business park that will help stimulate further growth in the sector, provide high quality jobs for the county and provide support for small, innovative start-up businesses.

"The site has a rich legacy dating back to the 1930s. By purchasing the site the County Council can retain and build on that legacy."

Less than 20 minutes from London Gatwick Airport and with good road links into the capital and the South Coast, the Horsham site is a prime location for companies looking for a UK base close to major international gateways.

Subject to planning approval, two thirds of the Wimblehurst Road site will be transformed into a science park, while one third will be set aside for high quality housing – helping West Sussex cover the costs of its investment and securing a great deal for the taxpayer.

Hugh O'Dowd, Country President & General Manager - United Kingdom & Ireland Novartis Pharmaceuticals Ltd, said: "I am delighted to be able to confirm that we are in detailed discussions with West Sussex County Council about purchasing our former Horsham site at Wimblehurst Road. We have agreed initial heads of terms and are now working on full contracts, with the aim of completing negotiations by early summer 2016. This is good news for Horsham and its residents as West Sussex County Council intends to bring high skilled jobs to the area, as well as develop some local housing. If the new campus becomes a health and life sciences hub for the region as West Sussex County Council intend, it will also help to realise our ambition of leaving a scientific legacy at the site."

The County Council is now working with architects and planners on designing the right mix of research and laboratory space, office accommodation and start up space to transform the site.

Under the agreement with Novartis, all buildings on the site will be cleared except the locally important 1930s Art Deco building. That will be converted for residential use and the avenue of cedar trees leading to its door will also be protected.

This work is expected to be complete by spring/summer 2016. A marketing agent is currently being appointed to seek partners to take the development forward.

News of the County Council's ground breaking deal has been welcomed by business leaders across the county.

Mike Hannay, Vice President and General Manager of Horsham-based Fisher Clinical Services UK, said: "This is fantastic news for Horsham and West Sussex, building as it does on the scientific heritage of our area. The new Science and Business Park is an important step in enhancing our county's role in the development of innovative new medicines and healthcare technologies."

Johan Sedihn, Chairman of Elekta Limited, said: "These are exciting times for West Sussex with another strategic investment in the region. Following hot on the heels of the announcement of Elekta's own Cornerstone development, providing a state of the art technological and customer innovation centre, the county looks to be in fine shape as we maintain our lead in key scientific markets. West Sussex businesses have given the world so many global scientific innovations and it's wonderful to see private and public sectors standing shoulder to should as we plan for the future."

Horsham District Council Leader Ray Dawe said he was delighted that West Sussex had taken on the site.

"The plan to develop a health and life sciences business park in order to protect employment and improve economic growth, alongside some residential development, is important for the district and is also a fitting legacy for one of the largest healthcare groups in the world.

"There will be a number of planning and contractual procedures that West Sussex will need to follow and we will work closely with them to support their vision while protecting the Art Deco former HQ building and its setting."

The health and life sciences sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the world as populations age and live longer and health services look to new ways to reduce spiralling medical costs.

Recent figures show across West Sussex more than 11,000 people are already employed in this sector. West Sussex is already the base for multinational companies who have their regional or global headquarters in the county – from renowned medical and diagnostic technology companies to major pharmaceutical and industry support services.

West Sussex County Council is also working with business leaders, universities, colleges and schools to ensure the right skills are being developed locally to meet the needs of this booming sector.

Any businesses interested in this redevelopment opportunity can find out more on the Invest West Sussex website.