Grangemouth factory expansion to make cutting edge ‘smart bomb’ cancer drugs
Plans for a new facility that will make cutting edge drugs to cure cancer were examined at a special meeting of Falkirk Council on Wednesday.
The online pre-determination hearing - broadcast on YouTube - gave councillors background to Piramal Pharma's application to build a new factory and office in Earls Gate Park, Beancross Road.
The company, which specialises in treatments for cancers and other life-limiting conditions, has been in Grangemouth since 2004 but the new expanded facility will increase staff numbers by around 70, to 210.
Piramal Pharma's head of engineering, Kevin Thorne, told councillors: "I don't think people in the local area know that they have a company that is at the forefront of oncology research and oncology medicine within the Falkirk area."
The company is working on groundbreaking treatment called anti-body drug conjugates, which Mr Thorne described as 'smart-bombs for cancer'.
At the moment, the site produces 500 grams of this drug per week.
"It doesn't sound a lot," he said. "But it does go around the world and it does cure the cancers that its treating."
He said clients have been asking them if it was possible to upscale manufacture and they have looked at several sites outwith the Falkirk area.
However, he said, they could not find anything suitable nearby and they did not want to lose any staff by moving further afield.
There are also regulations that say manufacturing and development of drugs should ideally be on the same site.
The three-storey building will have four manufacturing suites, laboratory support, warehousing and office accommodation - a gross floorspace of 13,153 square metres.
However, this will be built in three phases over the next ten years, starting with two manufacturing suites and supporting office and warehouse space.
The proposed development would operate 24 hours a day, Monday to Thursday, with a 6.30pm finish on Fridays.
The hearing is also a chance for people to hear from objectors.
In this case, the only objection is from the Health and Safety Executive, which was triggered automatically as the number of staff on-site will exceed 100 in CalaChem's level one zone.
Planning officers said there will be a robust assessment of the HSE objection and if granted it will need Scottish Government approval.
Mr Thorne told councillors that toxic substances are used but the quantities are tiny and there are very stringent procedures to deal with any problems.
Grangemouth Community Council was also consulted and it does not have any objections to the facility itself.
However, they met separately with Mr Thorne last year and have asked for two issues to be taken into account during construction: the noise from piling and parking for site workers.
This request came after ongoing problems with noise during construction of CalaChem's Earls Gate Energy Project last year.
Mr Thorne assured councillors that the piling should not be as noisy as last year's work and he was making arrangements for parking.
The final decision will be taken in June when all members of Falkirk Council will take part in a special planning committee meeting.