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No room to grow in Chippenham
A major manufacturing firm in Chippenham has submitted an application to move its headquarters and 150 employees to Melksham.
Herman Miller, which produces office furniture, has applied to Wiltshire Council to build a new 17,000sq m facility on the Bowerhill industrial estate to the south of Melksham.
It plans to amalgamate its current offices in Chippenham and its factory in Bath into a new single location off Portal Road, a move which would leave an empty industrial unit at its current location in Methuen Park.
Graham Dean, operations director at Herman Miller, said: “We have been planning for a long time, and finally got the planning application in December.
“All of our manufacturing, logistics and product design will be based at the new site. “There will be no jobs lost. All those jobs will move from Chippenham to Melksham.
“The site itself will pretty much fill out the land, but we have accounted for our internal growth, and what we do in that site will grow to accommodate our plans for the future.
“We hope for work to begin in Bowerhill in August this year.”
Herman Miller is the second major company to leave Chippenham in the last five months, after failing to find space to expand.
In July last year car parts firm DTR VMS made the decision to move its headquarters to Trowbridge from the Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate, moving 187 employees with it.
Following the latest news Rob Perks, president of the Chippenham Chamber of Commerce, called for more employment land to be released to allow larger companies to stay in the town.
He said: “We do get local people saying, we don’t want any more development in Chippenham, but actually this is the cost, that we lose decent-sized businesses.
“When they want to increase their size, which is a good thing, they need to move premises and there is nowhere to move to.
“People have to decide. Are you just preserving green spaces at all costs or are you keeping a vibrant economy where people can stay in the local area?”
Tom Jakes, from the Chippenham Vision, who is currently working on a master plan for the town centre, also supported the idea of making land available for companies to expand.
He said: “It’s a shame to lose Herman Miller. The fact that there is a long-standing history of Herman Miller being present in Chippenham builds up a general perception of the place, as well as Chippenham being the most convenient place for people who work there. If people decide not to pass through or live there then it’s bad for the town.”
The plans will be formally discussed at the next Melksham Without Parish Council meeting on January 21 at 7pm Crown Chambers, Melksham.