Alternative uses sought for Pfizer plant in Kent

UK government sets up task force to discuss closure and future prospects

A task force set up by the UK Government to look at alternative uses for Pfizer's research and development campus at Sandwich, Kent, has held its first meeting.

Pfizer announced last week that it would close the plant, which carries out research and development on allergy and respiratory drugs and employs 2,400 people.

The company stressed that the decision was part of its global programme of change and no reflection of the UK as a location for pharmaceutical research and development.

Science minister David Willetts and Business Secretary Vince Cable met managers and other staff at the facility this week to discuss its closure and future prospects.

Willetts said the priority was to ‘ensure that we hold on to the highly skilled workers at Sandwich and ensure the world-class research they conduct there continues’.

Cable said the task force was working to find and deliver ‘an ambitious solution’ for the Sandwich site to minimise the impact on the local area.

In particular it will look at maximising employment opportunities for the site and provide assistance for the people facing potential redundancy over the next 18 months.

The task force also aims to encourage new partnerships between Pfizer, contract research organisations and companies that could develop or relocate to the Sandwich site.

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter is leading the task force.

‘It's been all hands on deck since last week's announcement and the main objective will be to find as much high quality employment on site as possible,’ he said.

‘Time is of the essence and we must continue to explore every realistic opportunity.’