PROPOSALS to relocate the Health Protection Agency from Porton Down to Harlow have moved a step closer following a due diligence review.

The plans, which are currently under consideration by the Government, could see the loss of 550 jobs from Porton, with just 300 remaining at the site.

In April, the HPA will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the Department of Health.

Duncan Selbie, CEO Designate of PHE, said: “I recently asked Professor George Griffin to carry out a due diligence review of the proposal to bring together the HPA/PHE national assets currently at Porton and Colindale, along with the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control in Hertfordshire, on to a single campus in Harlow.

“Professor Griffin has reported that he is satisfied that due process has been followed throughout and has confirmed that the scientific premise for the proposed move to Harlow is sound.

“This is the latest milestone in the work involved in supporting the preparation of the business case for the co-location of these key services on a single site.”

A recent request for more detailed information on the business plan has meant that it will be at least a year before the Department of Health and the Government will be in a position to fully consider the case.

If the proposal is agreed, it will still be a further five years before any move is completed.

MP John Glen stressed that despite the outcome of the due diligence review, the financial side of the business case was still under close consideration.

He said: “While the aspirations of some scientists remain intact, the financial logic and value for money of such a move is far from clear.

“Given that it has taken several years to get to this point, there remain a number of serious questions unanswered about the costs involved and the advantages that would accrue to the public’s public health being moved to a single location.”

Many hope last month’s announcement of £10million from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills for a new £180million science park in Porton will strengthen the case for keeping the HPA at its current site.