Letter to Editor: Labour councillor asks “what is happening with the former Glaxo/Smith Kline site in The Pinnacles?”  

Politics / Sun 20th Aug 2023 at 12:24pm

Dear Editor 

THIS week there was an article in the news about a new £900 million life science park in Stevenage which begs a question about what is happening with the former Glaxo/Smith Kline site in The Pinnacles?  

In July 2017 the Government announced “that it had bought the site and was planning to build a £400 million world-leading home for public health science”. We were told at the time that “it was anticipated that the first staff will move to Harlow in 2021 with the site fully operational by 2024 with up to 2,750 people being based at the Science Hub and with scope for further expansion to 3,250.” 

This statement was welcomed by all political parties as it signalled a major science-based investment in our town.

So fast forward to 2023 – Public Health England as an organisation no longer exists, having been replaced by the UK Health Security Agency (HSA). The  Pinnacles site is still vacant. The promotional signs are now faded and there is little evidence of work being done to prepare the site for occupation any time soon.  

We also know the Health Security Agency have recently invested in a brand new Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) in Wiltshire which will accommodate the work of 200 scientists. But both the HSA and Robert Halfon MP are remarkably silent about what is now planned for the Harlow site. 

So what is happening, are the HSA laboratories still coming to Harlow? When will the Pinnacles building be occupied (This year? Next year? Sometime?  Never?) and what will be its role?  We need some answers!


Cllr Tony Edwards 

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7 Comments for Letter to Editor: Labour councillor asks “what is happening with the former Glaxo/Smith Kline site in The Pinnacles?”  :

Matthew Gillman
2023-08-20 12:34:27

In June, I emailed the HSA Harlow team ([email protected]) about this. The following is their reply: ----------- It is the UK Health Security Agency’s intention to create a state-of-the-art health security campus at Harlow. Unfortunately, it is too early to give exact timeframes on when the site will be fully operational, not least because we have one final approval hurdle to clear later this year when we expect the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and HM Treasury (HMT) to approve the refreshed business case for the campus. That business case will set out our best option for the future and ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. If we are successful with that it will give us a far clearer picture of timelines for construction and occupation. It is not unusual for timings to change on programmes of this scale and complexity. The opportunity to refresh the business case and re-plan delivery has been affected by a range of factors, including the transition from Public Health England to UK Health Security Agency, the pandemic and the Living with COVID strategy. We’re sorry we cannot provide more detailed timings. If you contact us again towards the end of the year, when hopefully we have approval from DHSC and HMT, we should be in a position to be more precise.

Deborah Morrison
2023-08-20 13:16:24

It’s ridiculous that a shopping centre in Cambridge is being converted into labs whilst this space remains empty, and as you note there is further expansion of research capacity in Stevenage. I hope the government get this moving in the right direction soon.

Guy Flegman
2023-08-20 14:24:25

Site was never suitable for the public health work. There is a reason this work has been done at Porton Down. It is in a valley and thus any accidents etc are more easily contained. The Harlow site is on top of a hill and thus fails the risk assesment. In my opinion it seems this site would be better suited to the expansion of the hospital, especially as the government owns the site. Hey but what do I know I am just a taxpayer!

2023-08-20 16:59:44

Guy sounds like a good idea, better for Harlow and everyone than moving PAH into Epping district: what has Robert Halfon to say on the idea?

James Leppard
2023-08-20 21:07:49

Nostradamus, what difference does it make if the future PAH is about 100 yards over the 'current' district boundary or not. Neither Harlow nor Epping Forest Districts run the health trusts. This is complete red herring as you well know.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-20 22:56:19

James, am I not right in thinking that NHS hospitals pay business rates. In 2021/22 it was estimated that the NHS paid a total of £423 million in business rates. So the loss of a hospital in Harlow to Epping Forest DC will be a detriment to Harlow, income and thus services provided by HDC.. Added to this the loss of thousands of people who visit the hospital each week who may also shop here whilst in the town centre. Terrible thing is, private hospitals can register as a charity and only have to pay 20% of the Business rates.

2023-08-21 08:12:10

Don’t worry about people shopping in the town center, there won’t be any shops there soon. The plan seems to be to knock it all down and replace with unaffordable flats. Shame the conservative councillor is advocating a quicker closing of the town Center likely as he wants more flats less shops and loss of local jobs with the move of the hospital, unless he doesn’t realise this is what will happen in which case we should be worried about is running the town.

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