A ‘world renowned’ science park could be built on a site in Sussex as West Sussex County Council is on the verge of buying it.
The multi-million pound investment in the former Novartis site could create up to 1,000 jobs for Horsham as the county council looks to put the county on the map as a leading European centre for the health and life sciences sector.
Pharmaceutical giant Novartis ceased operations in Horsham in June 2014 and while 160 homes are being built north of Parsonage Road, the company has been exploring options to secure a scientific and medical legacy when selling the southern part of the site.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of WSCC, said: “It’s a considerable investment in Horsham and an exciting one.’’
She added: “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.”
Negotiations could be completed by the summer and once finished WSCC would appoint a contractor to take the development forward.
Current plans would see the site cleared apart from the art deco building, which will be converted into housing, along with a third of the site, while the rest will be transformed into a science park for leading companies as well as smaller start-up businesses.
Hugh O’Dowd, country president and general manager for United Kingdom & Ireland Novartis Pharmaceuticals, added: “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.”
Novartis was exploring the possibility of selling the site to the University of Brighton for a higher education campus, but proposals fell through due to a lack of funding last year.
But when it came back on the market Mrs Goldsmith said she and others at WSCC were keen to explore the option of purchasing the site.
Although the final figure is confidential it is expected to be in excess of £10m and would be funded from WSCC’s capital reserves, not its revenue budget.
Mrs Goldsmith confirmed they would look to retain ownership of the site, and while the element of housing would pay for the development, a return on the original investment is also expected.
She explained how the decision to purchase the site had been discussed by the council’s select committees and officers had gone through everything thoroughly to make sure the money was being spent wisely.
West Sussex is already home to more than 90 businesses in the health and life sciences sector and Mrs Goldsmith said developing the site fits in with one of the county council’s three key priorities in supporting the economy.
She added: “It’s a change of direction but it’s the right investment for the future.”
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