Manston airport to become manufacturing centre for life science companies outgrowing Discovery Park, Sandwich

The former Manston airport site could become the home of the next centre for life science companies under its new guise as Stone Hill Park.

A proposed business park on the site, which would also feature 2,500 homes, is being eyed as a natural successor location for companies outgrowing their labs in nearby Discovery Park in Sandwich.

The business estate and airport are both owned by north-east entrepreneurs Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave.

The former Manston Airport. Picture: Simon Burchett
The former Manston Airport. Picture: Simon Burchett

The pair took over Discovery Park shortly after Pfizer announced it was cutting its activities there in 2011, costing hundreds of jobs.

Initially, the site became home to lots of start-up companies spinning out of Pfizer, with entrepreneurs using their redundancy money to continue research they had done with the drugs giant. It has since grown to become home to 125 companies.

Many of the research companies are nearing the manufacturing stage in the coming years, which will require larger premises than can be offered at Discovery Park.

Bosses see the £1 billion Stone Hill Park scheme as the answer to stopping those property revenues slipping away to other parts of the UK.

Discovery Park in Sandwich
Discovery Park in Sandwich

Discovery Park managing director Paul Barber said: “Stone Hill Park could be a natural extension to Discovery Park.

“While this site is positioned for research and development, some of our firms have aspirations to move into manufacturing one day.

“When they get to that stage, we need larger buildings and an obvious place for them would be Stone Hill Park. It is only up the road and has a lot of land.”

Moving companies at the manufacturing stage to Stone Hill Park would also solve another problem for Discovery Park, as it edges closer to full capacity.

Discovery Park managing director Paul Barber
Discovery Park managing director Paul Barber

It is already getting close to running out of refurbished lab space and has begun updating its 250,000sq ft Building 500. The project is so large the investment is being done in 50,000sq ft chunks, the first of which is due to be finished imminently.

At its present rate of growth, bosses anticipate Discovery Park could be full within two to three years.

Mr Barber added: “That day will come, hopefully.”

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