Engineering giant Dyson has been granted outline planning permission for a £250m expansion of its Malmesbury headquarters, which promises to bring 3,000 jobs to the town.
Members of Wiltshire Council planning committee last night voted unanimously in support of a change of use at Tetbury Hill from agriculture to employment land and the phased development of commercial buildings.
Wiltshire Councillor Toby Sturgis described it as one of the greatest developments north Wiltshire had ever seen.
And Wiltshire Councillor Philip Whalley said: “99 out of 100 towns in Britain would bite your hand off for this opportunity.”
Simon Killane, Wiltshire Councillor for Malmesbury, called the application in for discussion at committee because of the strength of the opposition amongst residents, whose concerns include light pollution from the car park and inconvenience to businesses on Beuttell Way.
Brokenborough resident Iris Thompson said: “My biggest concern is a huge increase in traffic movements. A high proportion of employees are likely to be car-dependent.”
The scheme allows for a maximum of 1,414 parking spaces.
David Longridge, who said he was speaking on behalf of 30 residents of Brokenborough, said he believed the development to be unsustainable. “It will not promote self-containment, indeed quite the reverse,” he said. “There will be significant levels of commuting, with 85 per cent living outside the area. To date, Dyson has not led to boomtown Malmesbury. It will employ 4,000 people and the population of Malmesbury is 5,380.”
Deputy mayor of Malmesbury Kim Power disagreed. Pointing to a £4.4 million boost to the local economy from Dyson in one year, she said it would increase the town’s prosperity and give a much sought-after pelican crossing.
The scheme is backed by Malmesbury Town Council and Brokenborough Parish Council, though Malmesbury town councillor Gavin Grant spoke of his fears for pedestrian safety and a growth in rat-running.
But Dyson’s highways engineer said two new roundabouts and improvements to an existing one should prevent rat-running through the town centre.
Mayor John Gundry said: “The proposed new road scheme at Beuttell Way went a long way to addressing our concerns. This is a good example of positive planning process, where issues were identified and solutions were proposed.”
Coun Killane also said Dyson’s consultation had been astonishing and spoke in the company’s favour, saying: “Rural Wiltshire needs high-tech employment. People say, ‘Dyson’s our only employer, what if they left in the morning?’ This shows they don’t intend to leave.”
He added: “Throughout the process I will be eagle-eyed, watching what happens and ready to call it in if necessary.”
Nigel Whitehead, for Dyson Technology UK, reiterated the firm’s commitment to working with residents to bring about highway improvements.
It is a condition of the application that these be approved by the council before the development begins.
Plans also include a cafe, an indoor sports hall and a helipad, for use by Dyson employees only.
Wiltshire Council case officer Mark Staincliffe said a licence would ensure work would not harm the great crested newts, and the archaeological remains found on site would be catalogued and secured.