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Fears over jobs at Wycombe's business parks after new housing law
COUNCIL chiefs in Wycombe, striving to create 2,000 jobs by 2016, fear their plans could be harmed by new planning laws.
Wycombe District Council tried but failed in its attempts to exclude ten business parks from the new rules, which now allow office space to be made into homes.
The Government permitted development rights, which came into force last month, could have an adverse impact on business parks and employment, officials believe.
The rules come into effect for three years.
The Free Press asked if the changes could affect WDC's target of creating 2,000 jobs by 2016.
Catherine Spalton, spokesman for WDC, said: "We have some concerns that this change in planning law could undermine the role of business parks and their ability to provide jobs if parts of them were converted to residential use.
"As a result, we applied for exemptions for ten sites, but unfortunately none of these were successful."
Among the sites WDC wanted to be exempt were Cressex Business Park, Glory Park and Johnson and Kingsmead Business Park - all High Wycombe - Marlow International and Globe Park in Marlow and Bourne End locations Millboard Road and Cores End Road.
The new business park at the revamped Handy Cross, where a £30m sports centre is set to be built, will form a crucial part of WDC's plan to create the 2,000 new positions.
About 1,300 positions are expected to be created from the Handy Cross regeneration, 900 at Glory Park and 200 at the former Compair Site in the Hughenden Quarter, all in High Wycombe. Council chiefs have also played up Globe Park in Marlow in recent times and have begun discussions on improvements there.
Last year WDC pledged £600k to be pumped into the economy to boost job creation after a shock report detailed thousands of job losses last decade and made a gloomy prediction for the area's economy.
The changes could also have an impact on how WDC goes about meeting its housing targets. A plan on new homes is being drawn up later this year.
Miss Spalton added: "We are currently assessing the overall balance of jobs and homes and the land to meet our future needs as part of the new plan; this has been slightly complicated by the change in planning law."
Meanwhile, neighbouring South Bucks District Council warned in a report: "The long term this could affect the Council’s ability to maintain a balance between the number of homes and jobs that exist within the district."
The Thames Valley Chamber of Trade are also concerned about the employment situation. Policy executive Clair Prosser said: "We are worried about the lack of employment space and growth of existing sites.
"Planning issues and government edicts remain an ongoing concern for our members throughout the Thames Valley area."
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