HUNDREDS of jobs at Porton Down are to be moved to Essex as ministers finally announce Harlow will be the site of a new lab facility for Public Health England (PHE).

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made the announcement this morning saying £350m would be invested in the new facility with the "much-needed" modern facilities replacing those at Porton which are "more than 60 years old".

In a statement, the government said PHE, formerly the Health Protection Agency (HPA) "remains committed" to the Porton site, with the publicly-owned pharmaceutical company Porton Biopharma and a regional PHE laboratory remaining at Porton.

Around 900 PHE staff are based at Porton Down with some 600 to move to Harlow over the next four years. A PHE spokesman said exact numbers had yet to be finalised but it was expected around 300 would remain at Porton.

The government said the new PHE facility - to be based on the site currently owned by GlaxoSmithKline  - would create a leading centre for research, health improvement and protection allowing the continued development of work on international health threats, such as Ebola.

Established in the London-Cambridge life sciences corridor, it will allow researchers from world-leading universities to be "better connected to the vital facilities".

It added: “This important investment will help to secure the United Kingdom’s place as world leader in life sciences, as well as ensuring state of the art facilities to keep our country safe from infectious diseases.”

MP John Glen who has fought over the years to keep the jobs in south Wiltshire said he was “extremely disappointed" with the decision.

He said: “I have had four debates and lobbied hard for five years.

“The question now is how to maximise the opportunities for a better future for Porton. I met with the Chancellor yesterday and he has readily agreed to support a taskforce for Porton.

“I have spoken to Jane Scott and will be meeting her again tomorrow to ensure the best possible future is secured for the science park and that new private sector investment is secured to reinvent this estate.

“I will also be working with the Life Sciences minister George Freeman and other interested parties to ensure that every opportunity is taken from the government.”

Mr Osborne said: "This investment is crucial for the future of research and innovation in public health.

"Moving PHE from their current facilities into new labs here in Harlow is not only the right thing to do for the future of health research, but it’s the right decision for the taxpayer.

"I look forward to seeing the development of these world-class facilities and the important role they’ll play in keeping Britain safe."

Public Health England Chief Executive, Duncan Selbie said: "This is a big step forward for UK public health science. Giving our world leading scientists world class facilities, located in the region with the greatest concentration of academic and commercial expertise in life sciences, will ensure we can deal with the health challenges we face now and are certain to in the future."

The decision from the government comes following Public Health England’s submission of an Outline Business Case to the government in July 2014.

A decision on the further Public Health England facilities in Colindale, London will be considered as part of the Spending Review.