Discovery Park Enterprise Zone is unanimously approved

We are delighted to announce that our future vision for the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone in East Kent was unanimously approved at Dover District Council’s Planning Committee last night.

It has been a long journey to get here, but the support of the local community and DCLG has enabled the team to develop a proposal that will see Discovery Park unite with the nearby town of Sandwich – to complement and not compete – through the adoption of a ‘total place’ approach.

This is the site where Viagra was discovered, having been the UK home to Pfizer pharmaceuticals for over 50 years. The problem was that, try as they might Pfizer didn’t discover anything else – despite spending one billion dollars on the most advanced laboratories and support facilities in Europe.

When in 2011 Pfizer decided to cut their losses, the majority of their jobs disappeared – almost overnight. The site became a ghost-town, and the effect on the neighbouring town of Sandwich was palpable. More like a set for a film than a real place, its labs were more use to Hollywood than scientists – even Brat Pitt and friends filmed World War Z here!

As is the case when you rely on one major employer, the period following their exit is akin to that of mourning. Who comes to save the day? Will anyone? What are the chances of another Pfizer waiting in the wings? Nil.

Wind the clock forward twelve months and a group of investors with a track record for turning round redundant tech facilities snapped up the entire campus. They spent the next year ‘repurposing’ and adapting the best buildings, demolishing those that were past their best – operations they had a pretty good track record in. But a site of this scale needed a big plan – and we have worked with Discovery Park Limited, GVA and Buro Happold to craft it.

To the initial horror of Dover Council, our answer was to introduce a host of new uses, including a significant number of new homes. Our vision is to see Sandwich and Discovery Park as one ‘Total Place’ – driven by new forms of innovation that have defined it over the last century.

Despite the whole site being in the flood plain, and internationally protected Water Voles pretty much everywhere, the plan is universally supported – from the town council to DCLG, everyone wants to see Discovery Park flourish.

Check out the video produced by our colleagues at Virtual Planit and the guys at Ironbird – it will fill in the gaps!

Last night’s unanimous approval marks the beginning of the next chapter of Discovery Park’s history and in turn the town of Sandwich. As the best performing Enterprise Zone in the country, perhaps this model will be adopted elsewhere – expanding settlements through more than just exploiting green fields.