NORTH Wiltshire has been dealt a second major business blow within a week with the decision by Good Energy to pull out of a development in Chippenham.

Last Thursday Dyson announced it was slashing 900 jobs and many of them would be at its Malmesbury head office. Wiltshire Council leader Philip Whitehead said he was disappointed at the news but would be working with the firm.

He said: "We know a lot of Wiltshire companies are struggling. We are working with Dyson and others so they can keep going and hopefully come out the other side and then start to expand again.”

But exactly a week later the council had to announce Good Energy was pulling out of the Sadlers Mead development which included a controversial car park.

The decision leaves the council and Swindon Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership attempting to find another firm to take on the scheme which had previously been heralded as a major boost for Chippenham.

Both Dyson and Good Energy blamed Covid-19 for their decisions. Good Energy has said it will expand into another floor at the council’s Monkton Park offices instead of the new office and people will continue working from home.

It will also repay fees that the council has spent on designing the building.

But a number of Chippenham people have reacted angrily. One said: "Well done Wiltshire council, you've given us one of the ugliest buildings in Wiltshire at a cost of £6,000,000 to create 80 extra car park spaces and backed it with the new good energy building whose occupancy has vanished ."

Another said: "I think it only created an additional 32 spaces, which is why it was madness in the first place. Now were left footing the bill of constructing a facility that there is no tenant for, equally less people parking, double whammy. People at the council need to be held responsible for such decisions."

And a third said: "Its all very well for Mr Whitehead from Urchfont to be disappointed. I was unhappy and disappointed with Wiltshire Council's decision to build themselves an ugly, unnecessary, inappropriate car park in the wrong place for the residents of Chippenham, at a time when there are real financial concerns and the Council should be promoting fewer cars journeys.

"If I thought those in power listened to local residents I would ask them to cease and desist because they are not helping anyone but themselves. But since they are in their own world, they should be ignored. If I am wrong, please prove it with positive and helpful actions in the future."

Cllr Whitehead said: “Of course, we’re disappointed that Good Energy has chosen not to progress with this scheme but we’re pleased that the company is committed to keeping jobs in Chippenham.

“This site, which has great links to London due to its proximity to the station, remains an important strategic development area for the council, and we’re working closely with SWLEP to explore new and exciting employment opportunities.

“We have worked closely with Good Energy throughout, and we will continue with this positive working relationship as they move into an extra floor in our Monkton Park offices.”

Fran Woodward, people and customer operations director, Good Energy, said: “While this wasn’t an easy decision for us to make, as the UK faces economic uncertainty following COVID-19, we need to ensure we’re making the right investments for our future.

"Our entire workforce has been working from home effectively and productively. In this context, as a business that takes its environmental impact extremely seriously, we have had to rethink our office workspace and how we can take a more digital and less carbon-intensive approach going forward, which will involve more remote and flexible working.

“We thank the team at Wiltshire Council for the support and understanding they have shown.”

Paddy Bradley, SWLEP chief executive officer, said of the news: “Although it’s disappointing the current economic conditions mean Good Energy will not be moving forward with this project, the development remains a strategic priority for the area.

“Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership continues to work with Wiltshire Council to explore other opportunities for the use of the site.

"Chippenham, with its strong connectivity, is well-placed to benefit from a development of this site.”

The council's Sadlers Mead development has been dogged by controversy since it was first proposed.

Some people working in Chippenham complained about the car park next to The Olympiad leisure centre being closed for 11 months.

Motorists were told they would have to use other car parks in the area when work began on creating a new surface and multi-storey car park.

The new car park will increase the number of spaces from the current 165 to 237 car spaces, three coach spaces and six motorcycle spaces.

Meanwhile, Malmesbury is reeling from shock following Dyson’s announcement that it is cutting hundreds of jobs.

The engineering giant, which started out in Chippenham before expanding to Malmesbury and across the world, is blaming a change in consumer behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 600 jobs of its 4,000 UK jobs will be lost and 300 globally. The biggest impact is expected to be on Dyson’s head office in Malmesbury.

Employees were told on Thursday via a video conference call that hundreds of jobs were going. A number of employees have already cleared their desks under a compromise agreement which means no consultation was needed.

One employee said: “It was a total shock. Even senior managers had no idea it was coming. It was quite personal as well in some cases as it seemed individuals rather than just jobs had been picked to go.” Several people were said to be in tears.

Malmesbury Mayor Cllr Campbell Ritchie.said: “This is obviously a big blow to the town. “The Town Council is hoping Dyson will meet its stated intent to redeploy as many people as possible.

“We have worked hard to develop and maintain a strong connection with Dyson. Many employees live in Malmesbury and see it as their home.”

“I’d like to see that the commitment to the UK remains,” added Cllr Ritchie. “And any suggestion that the call centre functions will be outsourced are both worrying and hugely disappointing.”

Wiltshire Council is in talks with the company to see what support can be offered to those soon to be unemployed. Council leader Phillip Whitehead said that Dyson had originally seemed confident that jobs in the electric car division, which was closed last year, could be absorbed but this had possibly changed because of Covid-19.

He said: “We know a lot of Wiltshire companies are struggling. We are working with Dyson and others so they can keep going and hopefully come out the other side and then start to expand again.”

Redundancies will be spread across the business but largely focused on retail roles, with Dyson employees working at department store concessions likely to be hit hard.

There will also be cuts to the vacuum maker’s customer service team, along with back-office functions such as its legal department. Some research and development roles are also understood to be affected.

A Dyson spokesperson said: “We are evolving our organisation and reflecting these changes to make us faster, more agile, and better able to grow sustainably. We are fully supporting those who are impacted.”

MP for North Wiltshire, James Gray said: “I have grave concerns about the future of the economy nationally and of course that will affect Wiltshire.”