Press release: Top construction firms appointed to build new PHE site in Harlow


Three of the UK’s leading construction companies have been chosen to create Public Health England’s (PHE) new state-of-the-art public health science campus and headquarters at Harlow, Essex.

They have been selected for the 4 key elements of the £400 million capital spend programme to create the campus. This includes building and refurbishing new and existing laboratories and office areas; construction of a new arrivals area and logistics centre; and site-wide infrastructure including car parking.

The appointments, creating thousands of construction-related jobs, sees the end of an 18-month procurement process, with work expected to start next month.

The successful companies bid for 4 lots:

  • lot 1 – new build of specialist bioscience laboratory building – Kier Group
  • lot 2 – refurbishment of main building, including laboratories and offices – Wates Construction
  • lot 3 – arrivals, administration and logistics buildings – Wates Construction
  • lot 4 – site-wide infrastructure, external works and energy centre – VolkerFitzpatrick (Royal VolkerWessels)

The appointment of all 3 contractors provides a boost to local employment – particularly in the case of VolkerFitzpatrick, whose head office is located in the neighbouring town of Hoddesdon.

The next steps will see the contractors working with the existing design teams and preparing the site for major construction. This is planned to start in 2019, with phased occupation starting in 2021.

PHE Harlow, as the campus will be known, is expected to employ up to 2,750 people by 2024, with scope for further expansion.

Facilities from Porton in Wiltshire and Colindale in north London, as well as PHE’s central London headquarters, will be relocated to the single centre of excellence for public health research, health improvement and protection.

The campus is critical to the future of PHE, ensuring we will be able to use the latest scientific advances to deliver our world-leading science and evidence for issues such as smoking, alcohol, diabetes, dementia, infectious diseases, environmental hazards and climate change nationally and internationally.

Richard Gleave, PHE Deputy Chief Executive, said:

PHE is delighted to have secured 3 of the leading construction companies in the UK to deliver what will be a world-leading national and international resource.

Much of the work to create PHE Harlow is highly specialised so it’s especially pleasing to have secured 3 of the best companies in their fields to deliver that work. This is yet another milestone for PHE and we can now look forward to the chosen contractors coming on board and bringing their considerable wealth of experience and skills to our programme.

We are also delighted at the very significant opportunities that the construction of PHE Harlow will offer in the surrounding area.

Nigel Brook, Kier Group Executive Director, Construction and Infrastructure Services, said:

This £160 million project is another significant award for Kier in bioscience, building on our track record as a specialist delivery partner in the sector with projects including biomedical research facilities for the University of Cambridge with Project Capella and the Sainsbury laboratory as well as the state-of-the-art Derriford Research Facility for Plymouth University.

We’re looking forward to providing a state-of-the-art facility which will help Public Health England to keep improving the nation’s health and wellbeing.

Ian Vickers, Managing Director, Wates Construction Home Counties, commented:

PHE Harlow will play a pivotal role in improving public health, providing state-of-the-art facilities for industry-leading scientists and doctors to address some of the most pressing medical and environmental challenges the world is currently facing.

It is therefore a particular privilege for Wates to be awarded 2 of the 4 lots. It is also a huge responsibility, and over the next year we will be working closely with PHE and other partners as we prepare to start on site in early 2019.

Richard Offord, Managing Director of VolkerFitzpatrick said:

We are delighted to be working with PHE on such a forward-thinking project. The new public health science campus will support the growth of the local area and we are looking forward to starting work on this exciting opportunity.


  1. PHE submitted an Outline Business Case to government in July 2014. An interim decision was taken in September 2015 to move the majority of PHE functions from Porton to Harlow. In November 2015 the government supported a further proposal to move PHE science facilities at Colindale to Harlow to create a single integrated campus. The government has committed £400 million capital investment for the project.

  2. Today’s announcement comes less than 3 weeks after PHE was granted outline planning permission by Harlow District Council to create its centre of national and international scientific expertise.

  3. It is hoped the public health science campus will be fully operational by 2024, with the first building work expected to start in 2019 and a phased occupation from 2021.

  4. The campus will allow PHE to fully embrace the new technologies of whole genome sequencing, public health interventions and ‘big data’ and transform the delivery of public health science for many years to come. Whole genome sequencing is the mapping of a person’s unique DNA and enables more accurate, sophisticated and cost-effective genetic testing.

  5. Kier Group plc is a leading property, residential, construction and services group which operates across a range of sectors including science, defence, education, housing, industrials, power, transport and utilities. Among the schemes it has been involved in, the most relevant are Project Capella, a large biomedical research facility, and the Sainsbury Laboratory both in Cambridge.

  6. Wates Construction has a long track record across both the public and private sectors and has worked on projects across a variety of areas, including education, commercial, heritage, local authority frameworks and mixed-use. These have included the delivery of major projects for both the Pirbright Institute in Surrey and the Quadram Institute in Norwich.

  7. VolkerFitzpatrick is a multi-disciplinary contractor working in the civil engineering, building, rail, waste and energy infrastructure sectors. The head office is at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire just eight miles from the PHE Harlow site. Founded in 1921, the company has grown to become one of the top contractors in the UK. VolkerFitzpatrick constructed a third berth at the UK’s new deep-sea hub port, 25 miles from central London at Stanford-le-Hope and was appointed by Siemens to design, build and commission two train care depots in Hornsey, north London and Three Bridges near Crawley, West Sussex. VolkerFitzpatrick is part of VolkerWessels UK, a multi-disciplinary construction and civil engineering group.

  8. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:

Matthew Cooper

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