The future of Natural Resouces Wales' laboratory services
Our Laboratory Service provides key services for Natural Resources Wales (NRW) that allows us to effectively protect and enhance our natural resources. It employs 38 highly skilled members of staff in its current base at Penyfai Laboratory in Llanelli
Without this facility and these highly skilled jobs, NRW would have to outsource these services, largely outside of Wales.
The current building is no longer fit for purpose. The provision of essential services to NRW is becoming increasingly difficult and the potential to expand and develop services is severely restricted.
Issues with current premises
There are a number of operational challenges as a result of age, condition, location and nature of the current site. In recent years, site management has mitigated for and managed these issues as far as is reasonably practicable. Any further improvements would require significant investment in structural changes which would not provide value for public money.
Over the last year, we have undertaken a thorough options appraisal regarding future premises for our laboratory services. This was completed to ensure the laboratory service not only continues to provide its current level of service, but also to secure long term sustainability by widening its operations.
As part of the appraisal process, we looked at the possibility of relocating the service at a number of locations within Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea. We used the ‘Five Case Model’ as set out in the Green Book and recommended by the Treasury as the ‘Best Practice Standard’.
Decision – initial preferred supplier and location
Our initial in-depth options appraisal identified Swansea University as our preferred supplier with their Grove Building as our preferred location.
Swansea University’s Faraday Building on their Singleton Campus and a private sector site at Dafen in Llanelli were our joint second ranking options.
During our formal commercial negotiations with the University, we were informed our original location on the Singleton campus (the Grove Building) was no longer available.
Decision - second choice supplier and location
Following the news our preferred location with Swansea University was no longer available, our Project Board re-evaluated our joint second sites in more detail to identify which of these options would best meet our requirements.
Our reassessment and evaluation methodology looked into our second choice buildings and locations in more detail. Swansea University’s Faraday Building (only a few hundred metres from our first choice that was announced in May) was identified as our preferred option. Our Project Board included a Trade Union representative who concluded the process remained fair and took staff needs into account
As well as offering all prerequisites for operational efficiency, the Faraday Building on Swansea University’s Singleton Campus site offers additional benefits for staff, the future of our laboratory service, Natural Resources Wales and the people, economy and environment in Wales.
We will now enter formal commercial negotiations with the University with a view to moving our laboratory services to the Faraday Building on their Singleton Campus by September 2016, subject to the successful conclusion of these negotiations
We believe that moving to this modern building in an academic environment will give us the opportunity to develop a first-class laboratory facility.
Expanding our service
Staying at our current premises greatly restricts our ability to expand the service we provide.
Co-locating the laboratory service within the academic sector and expanding its services will bring greater economic benefits to South West Wales. It will also offer a better and a wider range of services to NRW and potential customers throughout the UK and beyond.
Expanding and developing more aspects to the service would not only greatly reduce our reliance on revenue funding but will also provide greater opportunities for staff to widen their skills sets and continue their professional development.
For our staff, it means we will continue to provide highly skilled employment in South West Wales. By investing in ‘future proof’, fit-for-purpose facilities, we are ensuring long-term sustainability of jobs and our laboratory services.
By choosing Swansea University’s Faraday Building on their Singleton campus as our new location, staff will be co-located at the centre of cutting-edge scientific research and development within the academic community. This will provide them with a range of development opportunities, for example, through training opportunities and joint research ventures. This increased professional development of our staff will help us to build the intellectual capacity of our organisation.
We have explained this recent change of building to staff affected by this decision. We have liaised with our staff and trade unions throughout this process and kept them informed at each step. We will continue to support them before, during and after the move.
Our ambition is to develop a first class and ‘future proof’ laboratory service that has the potential to safeguard our existing highly trained staff and create more employment for South West Wales.
We believe that Swansea University’s Singleton campus facility offers us and our staff the best opportunity to do this, as long as we can successfully conclude our commercial negotiations.