Green light for science centre on Stevenage car park site
Matthew Smith, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Reef Group
An international biopharmaceutical company which is pioneering new cancer treatments has been given the green light for a new £65 million global headquarters in Stevenage.
Stevenage Borough Council granted permission for a new life science centre on the site of the Marshgate car park at a meeting last night.
The centre will be occupied by Autolus, a company specialising in gene and cell therapies to offer new treatments to cancer patients.
Autolus currently has five separate buildings in Stevenage, and the new site will see those come together as the company’s global operations headquarters.
The flagship building in St George’s Way will have almost 7,000 square metres of laboratory and supporting space, as well as upgrades to the landscaping around the building.
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The application was submitted by developers Reef in June with the intention of creating a new life science district in the town centre to go alongside plans for a previously announced GlaxoSmithKline expansion.
The plans were backed unanimously at a meeting of the council’s Planning and Development Committee on Wednesday evening.
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The new centre is expected to bring in £65 million in investment and 200 new jobs to the town, as well as maintaining Stevenage’s standing as a centre of excellence in the field.
Chris Gray, site manager for Autolus, told the committee that the site would be at the forefront of “revolutionary” cancer treatment.
Autolus focuses on Car T-cell therapy aimed at blood cancers such as leukaemia, by collecting and making a small change to blood cells, meaning a patient is then able to fight the cancer. At launch the company is expected to treat 600 patients in the UK and US, and expect to ramp up to 2,000 patients within three years.
Mr Gray said: “Stevenage is fast becoming a world leader in Car T-cell therapy, building a cluster around the existing centre of excellence enables Autolus to attract both talent and create jobs and apprenticeships in the area.
“Autolus is looking to commit to the town centre for the long term, resulting in town centre regeneration, economic activity, increased spend in the town centre and creation of 200 additional jobs, safeguarding 115 employees, creating apprenticeships for between 5-10 individuals and attract and retain spend in the high street and giving a boost to the post-Brexit economy and supporting pandemic recovery.
“Stevenage would become home to one of the first dedicated Car T-cell therapy facilities, cementing its position as a centre of excellence for cell and gene therapy."
The committee raised concerns with the current access onto St George’s Way from the Marshgate car park, the quality of disabled parking and the part-four and part-five storey building was branded a “monstrosity” by Liberal Democrat councillor Tom Wren, but ultimately backed the plans.
Councillors said the proposals would make the town a world leader in the field while enhancing the ongoing regeneration programme.
Cllr Joan Lloyd said: “Can I just say how delighted I am that this application has come forward. I’m a scientist so I know some of the work that goes on, and I don’t know how Autolus have survived on five sites.
“This is making Stevenage a world leader in the field for this, we’re already known for leading the field in this so I’m delighted it’s moving into the town centre.”
The move was unanimously backed by councillors, with Councillor Jody Hanafin (Conservative, Old Town) recusing herself from the vote due to her beliefs as an ethical vegan.