Planners’ Fast Tracking of UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre Supercharges Delivery
Vale of White Horse District Council has granted planning permission for the highly specialist facility that will house the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC).
VMIC, a not for profit organisation based at Harwell Campus, will provide the country’s first bespoke strategic vaccine development and manufacturing capability. In an unusual move, the district council allowed construction of the facility to begin whilst simultaneously processing the planning application because of the critical nature of the facility and the role it will play in manufacturing vaccines for COVID-19 and beyond.
Under normal circumstances, planning approval and construction for a new development of this scale would take years, with construction beginning only when planning permission had been granted. Due to COVID-19, and VMIC’s national and international significance, Vale of White Horse District Council took a different approach and fast-tracked the application process, meaning that much of the planning work taking place behind the scenes was carried out simultaneously to construction work.
Collaboration was key to securing the fast-tracked planning permission. Council officers significantly increased the number of meetings they would typically hold for this size of project with all the major stakeholders including VMIC, Harwell Campus Management (project managers), Carter Jonas (the planning consultant), Glencar Construction (main construction company) and the agency funding VMIC, UK Research and Innovation. Greater contact with statutory consultees, the local parish council and the ward councillor ensured consultation processes were adhered to and queries were responded to swiftly.
“We are extremely grateful to all the teams involved in working together to secure planning permission by moving at such a phenomenal speed. This decision by the Council gained us three critical months in our race to build a pandemic capable vaccine manufacturing facility, during which time we were able to go from a grass covered site to completion of the superstructure.”
Dr Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive Officer of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre
“This project has been a tour de force by hundreds of people working together strenuously and collaboratively, for the greater good. Harwell has enjoyed a positive relationship with Local Planners in the Vale of White Horse for many years. This project demonstrates that when we in the UK set our minds to it we can all work at a rapid pace, to successfully surmount challenges and deliver for broader society.”
Angus Horner, Harwell’s Campus Director
An additional government grant of £93million was awarded to VMIC in May 2020 with the purpose of expanding the facility’s capabilities and fast tracking the build of the 7,400 m2 (footprint) state-of-the-art facility and bringing forward operational readiness to 2021, a year head of the original scheduled date. Alongside this, VMIC has invested in more technology to increase its manufacturing capacity 20-fold, to be capable of producing 70million pandemic vaccine doses in 4-6 months.
VMIC will occupy a prominent location on the 700-acre Harwell Campus, home to 6,000 people across ~225 organisations [with 30 universities represented onsite]. As a pillar organisation within the Harwell HealthTec Cluster (58 organisations, collectively employing 1,250 people), VMIC will be co-located with the UK’s open access National Laboratories, including the Diamond Light Source and The Rosalind Franklin Institute as well as innovative start-ups/ SMEs through to multinationals working in the global and UK Life Sciences sector.
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