THE expansion of a controversial animal testing laboratory will make Gosport a target for activists, animal rights campaigners have warned.
Wickham Laboratories recently announced it was expanding its operation with a new six-acre site in Barwell Lane, Gosport.
It has drawn fierce criticism from animal rights groups who are planning to protest against the purchase.
Campaigners say increased attention from animal rights activists will put other businesses off setting up in the town.
Emma Haskell, 37, of Stop Wickham Animal Testing, said: ‘It will make Gosport a target for animal rights protests.
‘I understand they want more business here in Gosport and that is a good idea.
‘But having this lab here will put other businesses off coming to Gosport.
‘What company is going to want to set up at a site where there is animal rights protests and things like that going on all the time?
‘It’s going to get a lot of attention.
‘We’ve had support from Australia and all over the place and their attention will be focused on Gosport now.’
Stop Wickham Animal Testing has previously organised a number of demonstrations outside the Wickham site.
It held its first protest outside the new Gosport facility last month.
The group is planning to hold an animal rights march in Gosport later this year to protest against Wickham Laboratories’ new site.
Campaigner Helen Nelson, of Stop Wickham Animal Testing, spoke to councillors about her concerns at a meeting of Gosport Borough Council’s community board last night.
She said after the meeting: ‘We do hope the councillors will read the literature we have given them and take a bit of notice.
‘We think we will get a lot of support from people in Gosport and other areas.
‘We usually get 80 to 100 people at our demonstrations and this year we will get more.
‘We certainly do not want this unpopular and unnecessary development here in Gosport.’
Wickham Laboratories expects the new site to be fully operational within the next five months.
The company bought the six-building complex from pharmaceutical company Wyeth.
Leader of the council Cllr Mark Hook said: ‘The council hasn’t debated it because they are entitled to move into the building.
‘We will have an open dialogue with them to ensure they follow the correct procedures.
‘We welcome the idea that it will create 100 jobs in the borough.
‘We will just have to ensure the work they undertake is carried out in the right manner.
‘I can understand Helen Nelson’s concerns but (animal testing) actually is a small percentage of the work they undertake.
‘When I spoke to them about that issue they said they are always looking for alternative ways and animal testing is a last resort.’
The new Barwell Lane site, which will be known as Hoeford Point, has a main facility with a floor area of 42,100sq ft across three floors.
The six buildings include security, warehousing and laboratory and office complexes.