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 were carried out simultaneously to construction work.
Collaboration is key
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.
An additional government grant of £93m 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 ahead of the originally scheduled date.
Alongside this, VMIC has invested in more technology to increase its manufacturing capacity 20-fold, to be capable of producing 70m pandemic vaccine doses in 4-6 months.
Delivering an exceptionally challenging project
Chris Lucas, chief operating officer, VMIC, said: “By fast-tracking the planning process and allowing us to start construction of the VMIC facility early, the district council has really enabled us to accelerate the pace of this project.
“Their support and collaborative approach has contributed significantly towards us meeting our deadline of opening in summer 2021 – a year ahead of schedule.”
Cliff Dare, chief operating officer and head of real estate of Harwell Campus and development manager for the VMIC build, said: “Working on the Government’s main effort at the forefront of our Nation’s fight against Covid-19 was always going to be an exceptionally challenging project.
“Delivering the building almost a year early demanded a united approach. The district council team has enabled construction to move quicker than we ever expected but this would also not have been possible without the positive relationships established between the talented and dedicated people working across every part of this vital project.”
Eddie McGillycuddy, managing director of Glencar Construction, added: “Glencar is delighted to play a central role in the realisation of this landmark project.
“From the outstanding approach of the Vale of White Horse and Harwell Campus to the contractors and suppliers on-site, it has been a leading example of the Construction industries capabilities.
“Together, we will bring this facility to operational status in record time.”