London mayor Boris Johnson has been urged to use London Growth Fund cash to drive forward plans to regenerate Dagenham's Sanofi site.
The pharmaceutical firm is set to close the facility, on a 43ha site, next year, and has drawn up a redevelopment masterplan for a business, science, and retail park that could create around 2,500 jobs.
Modeled on a project in Cheshire that transformed an ailing ICI plant into a base for 160 individual companies, Sanofi’s 'businesseast' vision seeks to maintain its £25 million state-of-the-art research, development and manufacturing facilities for smaller scientific and technology companies to use.
The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has lodged a bid for £12 million from the London Growth Fund to help give the facility a new lease of life.
At a recent event to showcase the proposals, Alastair Campbell - former director of communications and strategy to Tony Blair – called on Johnson to commit the funding to ensure the facilities weren’t lost.
“We hear a lot of Boris and we see a lot of Boris, but every now and again it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he put his money where his mouth is,” Campbell said. “I’m a great believer that change only comes if you make change happen.”
Former Conservative transport minister and London mayor candidate Steven Norris also urged Johnson to back the project financially, arguing that support would be a loan rather than a one-way handout.
“Just to be clear about the money that we want from the growth fund, we’re saying to Boris we don’t actually want a grant,” he said.
“What we want you to do is to buy a property which subsequently you will be able to sell in the market – and actually, with any luck, make some money out of it. That’s a very, very good thing indeed because it means that the fund then has the opportunity to lend the money a second time.”
Jim Moretta, Sanofi’s site leader at Dagenham, said the firm took the site’s legacy very seriously and had adopted “a ground-breaking approach” to a site closure.
“At a time when the economy is suffering so severely and we are being told that research and development is vital for the future prosperity of the UK, it seems inconceivable that such superb amenities risk being lost,” he said.
“Possibly of even greater significance is the future of a really precious resource – the highly skilled technicians that work inside them. We have 450 people working on this site today – every one of them a skilled worker.
“It would be an absolute travesty if these facilities – which we conservatively estimate to be worth in excess of £25 million – have to be demolished because other users can’t be found for them.”
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