THE VIBRANCY of life in Marlow could be damaged if developers carry on turning town centre office blocks into houses, according to business leaders in the town.

Marlow Chamber of Trade and Commerce, which represents over 100 Marlow businesses, has warned the growing trend could affect the feel of the town centre and create a shortfall in office space.

New government planning rules introduced last year made it easier to turn empty office blocks into flats, with a number of large-scale conversions already planned in Marlow town centre.

And Marlow Chamber chairman Tim Graham warns that should the trend continue, Marlow town centre could end up seeing segregated areas of housing and business for the first time.

The comments are part of the Chamber's reponse to Wycombe District Council's Local Plan consultation, which is looking for feedback on ways to cope with the district's growth over the next 15-plus years.

He said: "Marlow has always provided a mix of both residential, business and retail units and every encouragement should be made to ensure this mix continues.

"Conversion of premises from B1 Offices to C3 residential use runs the risk of removing from the town centre substantial good quality office space that has always been an integral part of the Marlow town centre environment.

"If future conversions from business to residential use occur there is a risk that a shortfall of town centre office accommodation will occur and consideration needs to be given for the encouragement for the refurbishment and building of new offices in the town centre to ensure there is an integrated and cohesive mix of residential, business and retail units available.

"This will in turn create a better and vibrant life for Marlow as a town rather than create segregated areas of business and residential."

In recent months there has been a raft of applications to Wycombe District Council for office conversions in Marlow.

A plan emerged in December for nine flats in the ‘Ice House’ building on Dean Street, and last August permission was granted for six flats in a former office site on West Street.

While not a conversion, Shanly Group’s new plan for the corner of Spittal and Dean Street sees a potential 14 new homes built in place of existing office space.

And Regal House, the plot where Marlow’s cinema once stood, is the subject of the latest proposal, which would see a further 12 apartments on Station Road in a building previously used for commecial offices.