Sandwich Pfizer research site closure a 'body blow'

The news that drug giant Pfizer is to close its research and development site in Kent has been described as a "body blow" by local MPs.

Pfizer said the majority of its 2,400 employees at the facility would be made redundant over the next two years.

It said the move was part of a global reorganisation of its research and development capacity.

Conservative MP for South Thanet Laura Sandys said the announcement was big shock to the community.

Ms Sandys added: "It really is a body blow for east Kent. We have some extremely skilled workers, some amazing employees there.

"It is now incumbent on us, both Kent County Council and I've spoken to the minister in Whitehall, that we need to come up with a plan over the next 24 months to regenerate the site.

"Now we've got to all work together to pull together a very important economic proposition for east Kent and that Pfizer site."

The leader of Dover District Council, Councillor Paul Watkins, said: "The local economy will be badly hit by the effects of this news and those local families who have relations employed at the site will be particularly distressed and concerned at the moment.

"Pfizer is a high income business and the social and economic effects can not be underestimated.

"We will do what we can as a local authority to engage with government and the county council and with Pfizer and local partners in an attempt to find solutions for the future of the site and how best we can be supportive of local employees and families."

Business Secretary Vince Cable called the decision "extremely disappointing" but said the company had been clear that the move was part of its global programme of change.

Mr Cable said he would be meeting Pfizer, other companies and local representatives "as a matter of urgency" to discuss ideas for continuing R&D activities at the site.

Image caption Pfizer said most of its employees at Sandwich would face being laid off

Unite's national officer, Linda McCulloch said: "This is absolutely devastating news for the local economy.

"Pfizer is the biggest employer in the area and the workers are well paid and highly skilled. This closure exposes the government's vacuous claim that the private sector will compensate for its brutal cuts.

"The staff at this site are at the cutting edge of developing life-saving drugs.

"These are exactly the sort of jobs we need to keep in this country and Unite will be doing everything possible to save these jobs and seek alternatives to closure."

'Proud heritage'

The pharmaceuticals group, which closed its manufacturing operations at Sandwich in 2007, said it hoped to redeploy several hundred positions to other sites or partner companies.

Senior vice president and site head, Dr Ruth McKernan, said: "Sandwich has an extremely talented workforce with a proud and rich history in science research and development.

"This decision is no reflection on the site, the workforce or the operating environment in the UK.

"It is hoped that we can retain this proud R&D heritage through strategic partnerships in the future."

The Sandwich site conducts research and development on allergy and respiratory drugs.

Pfizer has its UK business headquarters in Walton Oaks, Surrey, and other operations in Maidenhead, Aberdeen and Cambridge.

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