EMPTY office blocks in Marlow are out of date and need to be dragged into the 21st century to keep the town open for business, according to politicians and business leaders.
Concerns have been raised over the large swathes of empty premises, especially on the large dedicated industrial area Globe Park, based off Fieldhouse Lane.
With Wycombe District Council’s (WDC) Local Plan looking to make Marlow an attractive destination for businesses, calls are growing for the park to be modernised and made fit for purpose.
And MP Dominic Grieve believes more should be done to maximise the existing buildings and infrastructure before considering a new complex on Green Belt land at Westhorpe Park.
He said: "I am concerned that Globe Park is under-utilised at the moment.
"Looking at Globe Park and why buildings and units are unlet or whether there should be more development there to make units more 21st century friendly.
"That might be a better thing to do initially than starting to stick stuff down on Greenfield sites at Westhorpe.
"Marlow is a pretty vibrant place and has also been developed very well as the population has expanded in the last 70 or so years.
"It’s still recognisably what it is but I do think if we start spilling out over the A404 we’re going to end up with something rather different."
Marlow’s business quarter, based in the east of the town near the A404, is home to the Thames Industrial Estate, Globe Park and Marlow International.
Though home to some large employers such as Softcat and Dun and Bradstreet, many of the buildings are unused.
To combat the problem, a long-mooted plan to create a ‘Business Improvement District’ at Globe Park similar to a scheme in High Wycombe town centre is on the horizon, according to WDC.
The High Wycombe Bid Co is responsible for improvements to the town centre paid for by a business rate levy based on the company’s size.
And it is hoped a similar scheme in Marlow could help keep existing companies in place and attract more new firms to the town, with a ballot on the idea taking place among businesses in October.
WDC leader Richard Scott told the MFP: "One of the problems with Globe Park is that it includes two different areas of industrial park and they are in a multitude of ownerships, and so the council cannot easily impose a solution. That is why we are keen on the Bid co idea.
"Some are empty, some are empty, some are sold, some are temporary, and the council owns some land down there too.
"The biggest issue is car parking, but building a new car park is very expensive, and we would see what the Bid Co could come up with and if there was redevelopment a new car park could be part of that.
"If it goes ahead, they will represent the businesses and come up with the solutions needed as we (the council) are not the major player there.
"There are some great quality companies there but there are also empty units, and we are anxious to see the area regenerated."
Despite concerns over empty units on the business park, there are success stories in the area, with IT company Softcat going from strength to strength and employing around 400 people at its Fieldhouse Lane HQ.
Former WDC leader Alex Collingwood has praised the example set by the firm, but stressed work needed to be done to bring some buildings ‘into the 21st century’.
As well as parking problems, limited access to the industrial parks causes gridlock during rush hour.
Cllr Scott added that the roundabout linking the estates to the A404 at the Parkway has been identified as a ‘pinch point’ by the Highways Agency during the government’s review of problem areas on the roads.