One of Horsham’s most prestigious employers Novartis this week confirmed its commitment to remaining in the town but it is to sell a significant part of its town centre campus for redevelopment, the County Times can exclusively reveal.
The land - more than 12 acres - is likely to be used to build homes and possibly some business units too, but that will be a decision for the developer who purchases it and Horsham District Council.
The news comes a year after the pharmaceutical giant announced a big reduction in its workforce there from nearly 1,000 to 440. At the time there were fears that this might be the ‘beginning of the end’ for the company’s involvement in Horsham.
Manufacturing is moving away from Horsham as part of that process with last production scheduled for September 2013.
But its world class respiratory research and associated development teams will remain at Horsham.
This week, Novartis reaffirmed that it is committed to the Horsham site and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research respiratory disease centre.
As part of that, its UK board has approved proposals to redevelop the Horsham Campus - with plans to sell part of the site and upgrade that section which is to be retained.
Land to be sold to a developer is split into two sites to the north and south of Parsonage Road. The northern site, 8.15 acres (3.30 ha), comprises a car park and sports field. The southern site, 4.10 acres (1.66 ha) currently comprises car parking and operational buildings.
At the same time, that part of the site being retained will be updated so that it is fit for NIBR’s future use. Novartis will invest approximately £5m in the site which will include creating a new car park where the current manufacturing plant is, landscaping, and building renovations.
In making the announcement to staff, a spokesman for Novartis explained: “This process may include the renovation of several buildings on site, potential sale of some land currently owned by Novartis and the removal of several obsolete buildings. All proposed changes will be subject to planning processes and it is expected that the redevelopment of the site will continue until 2014.
“Cushman and Wakefield have been appointed to handle finding a suitable property developer for the proposed site .”
In an exclusive interview with the County Times this week at the Novartis site, the management added that of the 440 target number of employees to remain at the Horsham campus approximately 80 per cent would be engaged in the centre’s world-class respiratory research into asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic bronchitis.
The remainder would be largely involved in development - while other divisions such as SANDOZ would continue to be represented.
They stressed that the moves confirmed Novartis’ commitment to Horsham.
The company’s iconic 1930s flagship building will be retained and enhanced.
“The land [which is being disposed] will be marketed in the very near future - probably the next couple of weeks.”
This includes the current car park, green area, changing rooms and a small fitness centre.
“Horsham District Council has been very supportive throughout.”
Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of Horsham District Council, said: “It is excellent news that Novartis is keeping its world centre research facility for respiratory illness in Horsham and that it is making it clear that it is committed to building on this important area of research at its existing facility in the town.
“The council was most concerned when Novartis originally announced proposed changes to its business resulting in job losses. The company is now looking at how to best use its Horsham based site, considering how land could be developed and ensuring there is scope for the research facility to have the potential to expand in the future. I am also pleased to learn that it is looking to retain the distinctive 1930s building.
“The council is very keen for the company to remain in the town and I can confirm that we are proactively working with the company’s agents to liaise with prospective developers to ensure the best outcome for this important Horsham site.”