A £350m pharmaceutical manufacturing facility that was tipped to be built in the South Lakes will no longer go ahead.

Lakes Bioscience submitted plans to South Lakeland District Council in 2020 to build the facility on a disused car park on Pulman Road, in Ulverston, opposite GSK’s current facilities.

Planning permission was granted last year. However, Lakes Bioscience chief operating officer Pat McIver confirmed to in-Cumbria that the facility - which was tipped to create 250 jobs - will no longer be built in Ulverston.

Doubts over the project first emerged last winter, when Lakes Bioscience said it was considering a range of different locations throughout Britain in addition to Ulverston.

Although he would not name the location of the new plant for commercial reasons, Pat said it would not be in Ulverston. However, in-Cumbria understands it may be in Manchester, Wales or the Tees Valley.

While the project will be mainly funded through private investment, Pat says it did not receive the level of financial support from local organisations such as Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to take it forward.

"To attract the kind of investment into this type of industry we are competing on an international playing field and so the level of financial support, to help to level that playing field such that the UK is attractive to international investment is a key part of the proposition,” he says. “Cumbria hasn't been able to provide the kind of support that's necessary for us to take project apex forward.”

He said another major consideration was the access and opportunities for collaboration with research and academic institutions at the new location.

"Other locations and the location we've selected to go forward with are able to provide us with better access to the complementary industries and institutions that will be key to developing and growing the business successfully,” he says.

“That’s something that Cumbria’s offer is not really able to match.

"We're talking about academic institutions like research-based universities, centres of medical research and delivery; so hospitals where there is a level of innovation and engagement and industry involvement in clinical trial programmes," he says. "There are other parts of the country where the collaboration between institutions is more advanced.

“That's not to say there's the absence of those individual institutions entirely in Cumbria, but the connectivity and the relationships between those types of institutions elsewhere is more advanced than it is in Cumbria.”

Pat says the directors behind Lakes Bioscience are “all as disappointed as anybody else in the region”.

"We had a real passion for what we're trying to do in Ulverston,” he says.

"We were really disappointed when it became very evident that ultimately we weren't going to be able to take this forward in Ulverston and that we'd have to go to an alternative UK location. I'm sure it will be very disappointing for everybody in Cumbria and everybody in Ulverston.”

Cumbria LEP’s head of business programmes Jon Power says there was never a “formal proposition” made for funding from the organisation but there had been ongoing discussions.

"The monies we had had all been allocated and the only actual funding we had available was on a recurring repayable loan situation," he says.

Jon points out that Wales, Tees Valley and Manchester all have devolved governments or combined authorities with access to more funding than local enterprise partnerships. The announcement from Lakes Bioscience is another setback for the pharmaceutical industry in Ulverston.

Last year pharmaceutical giant GSK announced it would close its production facility in Ulverston after selling its cephalosporins antibiotics business to Swiss-owned Sandoz.

It has set a timeline which could see the site close in 2025.

The move led to consternation in the town with 130 jobs at risk as a result. A task force, chaired by Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell, has been working with South Lakeland District Council to develop a plan for what to do with the GSK site as well as land opposite the facility and the GSK Sports Club.

The company donated the land opposite in 2018, which used to be a car park, to support the creation of jobs and growth in the local economy.

Mr Fell says despite the announcements from GSK and Lakes Bioscience there is still a “huge opportunity” for Ulverston.

"The announcement by GSK was concerning and is concerning, but we've got a good period of time to find a solution to it,” he says.

“We've got these amazing facilities down there, we've got a good patch of land, got full engagement of GSK and the local authority and the Government, so we're in a real position to create either a cluster of biopharma facilities or tech startups in that space, utilising the talent that's already there and hopefully growing what we've got rather than just retaining it.”

What the site could comprise is still under discussion, but Mr Fell says it could incorporate a science park as part of a collaboration between biopharma and life sciences companies, as well as institutions such as Lancaster University and University of Cumbria offering training opportunities.

The task force has been consulting with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as the Department for International Trade to see what incentives could be put in place to make the site more attractive for investors.

"We're basically going to end up with, in pretty short order, a very, very attractive investment site with the workforce on the doorstep and incentives from Government to help them get there, so we're in a really good position,” says Mr Fell.