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Compton animal testing site to move out in August

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THE closure and relocation of one of the country’s leading animal testing centres at Compton has been brought forward six months ahead of schedule in a move branded “callous” by a local resident.

The Pirbright Institute, formerly the Institute for Animal Health, researches viral diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. It has occupied the land since 1942.

The Institute, which has an annual income of more than £25m, employs around 330 staff, divided between the Pirbright campus in Surrey and Berkshire’s Compton Laboratory.

The Compton site is roughly 45ha, excluding surrounding agricultural land, and employs 63 people and has 11 students out of the village population of around 1,500.

It was announced in 2009 that Compton would close and the two facilities would merge at a new site at Pirbright, with West Berkshire Council to provide affordable housing in its place.

The final date for closure and relocation was confirmed as spring 2016.

The company has since changed its schedule and revealed this week that the closure had been brought forward to August.

A spokeswoman from the Pirbright Institute said: “The Pirbright Institute will begin closing its Compton site in Berkshire from August 3 as it is no
longer required in order to deliver the Institute’s strategy and scientific mission.

“The Institute continually reviews the capabilities required to meet its science needs and has identified that the Compton site closure can be achieved earlier than originally planned.

“Consolidation of its scientific activities to one site in Pirbright, Surrey, to enable experts on the control of animal diseases to work closely together in new state-of-the-art research facilities, will take place from August 3, six months earlier than originally planned.”

Meanwhile, one local resident contacted the to express their dismay at the move, branding it “callous”.

The Compton villager, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Staff have had little or no support as to when their jobs would end and are continually living through the ‘when am I going’?”

The resident claimed: “This has led to people suffering stress, illness and tensions.

“Once again no support has been offered or help given.

“Knowing that you will lose your job is bad enough, but being told it’s sooner rather than later is wrong.

“A large amount of staff members live in accommodation provided by the Institute.

“It seems apparent the members of staff are going to be made homeless in the near future, with no consultation whatsoever, a letter arrives on your doorstep advising on being made homeless.

“The village struggles to house families in affordable housing as it is, but to make a large amount of people homeless is extremely callous.

“Many of the people have lived in the village all their lives, and now face the prospect of being possibly rehomed many miles from their original homes.”

The Pirbright Institute said: “Redundancies of those Institute staff that are not relocating will result from the planned move and it is hoped that these will be on a voluntary basis.

“Individual consultations will take place with all those affected.

“Following the move of Institute staff from Compton to Pirbright, the Compton Laboratories site will be fully decommissioned before being used for any other purpose.”

Pirbright added that it had consulted with residents in the run-up to the move at every stage since 2011 and that formal consultation is being conducted with redundancies on a voluntary basis and with three months' notice.

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