‘Planning reform to help scientists’ welcomed by Bidwells after £650m Government life sciences package revealed
The news that the Government is pledging to ‘reform planning rules to help scientists’ by delivering more laboratory space in places like Oxford and Cambridge has been welcomed by Bidwells this morning.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced more than £650 million of measures to support the UK’s life sciences sector this morning (May 26), as well as a commitment to the transformational new East West Rail line between Oxford and Cambridge.
The third section of the railway between Bedford and Cambridge, will include a direct link to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, one of the UK’s most successful life sciences clusters.
The Treasury also revealed planning proposals to support the R&D sector within the Planning system. Bidwells has been long term supporters of the government making the planning system much more responsive to the needs of the R&D sector by placing much greater weight on the delivery of new laboratories and supporting infrastructure in the decision making process.
In our 2021 Radical Capital, we called for a Planning use class for R&D and the announcements today are an encouraging step forwards. They include:
- A consultation on adding requirements to the National Planning Policy Framework to say that decision makers should pay particular regard to R&D needs, including the need for additional laboratory space, and proactively engage with potential applicants.
- Updates to the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) to help local authorities take fuller account of the commercial land needs of businesses and better plan for inward and high value investment.
- Government investment into making the relevant sites more attractive by working with local planning authorities to encourage proactive planning tools, such as Local Development Orders and Development Corporations, to bring forward development.
The Treasury also announced a £650 million ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package to support the life sciences sector directly, including £121 million to improve commercial clinical trials to bring new medicines to patients faster, up to £48 million of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies and £154 million to increase the capacity of the UK’s biological data bank.
Mike Derbyshire, head of planning at Bidwells, said:
“Today’s Planning announcements demonstrate that the government remains committed to transforming Britain into an R&D powerhouse by enacting real, tangible policies. This is certainly a step in the right direction.
“We sincerely hope the new National Planning Policy Framework requirements and updated Planning Practice Guidance floated by the Treasury today provide the tools we need to start delivering the laboratory space that our life sciences sector so desperately needs in places like Oxford and Cambridge.
“Our own research tells us that in areas like Oxford and Cambridge – regions where UK life sciences have a critical mass – availability rates for lab space are near-zero. This means that there is a real risk that the unicorns of tomorrow could look further afield to places like the United States or Europe. As a result, the UK economy could lose out on vital tax revenue, jobs and export potential.
“By making it easier for developers and investors to build infrastructure that is critical to the growth of our modern economy, ministers will capture the huge potential of life sciences – which, according to our own estimates, could contribute up to £235 billion to the economy each year and support two million jobs by 2030.”
Nick Pettit, senior partner at Bidwells, said:
“If you ask any start-up or scale-up what their biggest barriers to growth are, they will almost always tell you that access to talent is the biggest. Today’s announcement that East West Rail will go via Cambridge Biomedical Campus will help alleviate the pressures caused by a skills shortage among scientists and researchers by offering talent a cheap and reliable route to the many world-leading ecosystems that make up Cambridge.
“For the UK to be genuinely leading on the global stage, our greatest assets and knowledge intensive clusters located across the Arc need to be serviced by world class transport and connectivity, with commitments needing to be delivered on time and its totality. Any delay or lack of certainty in achieving this will undermine vital confidence from investors and businesses looking to make long term investment decisions, which will severely impact on long term UK economic growth ambitions.”
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