Major plans to transform a disused site in Sussex into a state-of-the-art leading European science park have been welcomed by a watchdog group.
West Sussex County Council announced last week that it had agreed to buy the 19.6 acre site at Wimblehurst Road, Horsham, from global health care company Novartis.
And John Steele, vice president of the Horsham Society - which watches over the interests of the town’s heritage and development - said today: “It’s very encouraging news.
“A science park close to the centre of the town would bring high skilled jobs and retain our scientific tradition.”
Development of the site - which dates back to the 1930s - is expected to give the local economy a major boost and provide up to 1,000 new jobs. Announcing the proposals, county council leader Louise Goldsmith said the development would “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.”
Two thirds of the development site itself would be earmarked for the science park, and one third for housing. An historic art deco building on the site would be retained - which was also welcomed by members of the Horsham Society.
John Steele added: “The Society is very pleased that the council plans to retain the locally listed art deco headquarters building and the very important avenue of mature trees.
“We hope it will also consider retaining the two Gate Houses that frame the historic entrance to the site and the view down the avenue to the main building.”
Work on the site 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 deal has been welcomed by business leaders across the county and by Horsham MP Jeremy Quin.
Meanwhile, revelation of the plans have sparked a debate on social media. Andrew Campbell wrote on Facebook: “Lifted my spirits on reading this. Do hope it doesn’t end up just another small business park.”
And Kerry Hampson wrote: “Great news, but they must act fast before the skill base in Horsham all leaves for elsewhere in pursuit of high quality specialist jobs that match their skill sets.”
Richard Smallridge said: “I hope this happens Horsham needs big business.”
Geoff Oborne questioned: “So how can WSCC have enough money to buy this site and develop it and then at the same time say they have to make £40m savings and cuts to services ..... Perhaps the site would be better served for either housing or better still move the current Horsham Hospital, police station, fire and ambulance stations (all of which are larger than needed) and also move the post office from Hurst road and put them on this site.
“The Hurst road site could then be developed for low cost housing which Horsham badly needs. The issue with this being a science park is that the roads around it are fully congested and another 1,000 staff will make this even worse.”
Mike Tunstall added: “There looks to be no provision for the requirement of 200-300 parked cars or service roads to the buildings.”
And Ruth Stoner wrote: “It’s a great idea - BUT I would like to see car parking included in the plans, it’s a big enough site for it. There is already lots of parking problems in Horsham, we don’t need to add to them. Planners need to build places with parking included.”