WEST Berkshire Council has once again insisted it did everything it could to keep Bayer in Newbury – but admitted it doesn’t have the business facilities to compete with Reading.
The Newbury Weekly News exclusively revealed that the company was leaving its UK headquarters in Newbury town centre after 32 years and moving its 470 employees to Green Park, off junction 11 of the M4.
Bayer looked at a range of sites across Berkshire in a four-year search, but told the NWN it wanted to stay in the Newbury area and that its preferred option was the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE).
Last month, departing council leader Gordon Lundie (Con, Lambourn Valley) admitted that Bayer could have been retained had the council-led redevelopment of the LRIE moved at a faster pace.
However, when asked by the NWN at the Newbury Vision conference on Monday whether he felt the council did everything in its power to keep the major employer, chief executive Nick Carter, said: “My answer to that is yes.
“It was a complex project to deliver and it may well be that Bayer saw London Road as its preferred option.
“The reality is was when it was independently assessed it had too much risk associated with it in terms of deliverability.”
At the conference, Tony Coleman, managing director of Acedes Gear Tools, said: “I want to know why Bayer had to move from Newbury. They were a very, very important employer with some great ideas for the future.”
Mr Carter replied: “Unfortunately London Road fell away quite quickly because it was seen as potentially undeliverable in the timescale that Bayer were working to.
“What we did when that happened was work with another developer on a potential greenfield site in Newbury and I have to say that was a very tricky site to pull off.
“There was a very strong political commitment to try and keep Bayer in Newbury. Unfortunately that was too late for Bayer.
“It is absolutely fair to say that at the final cut, when Bayer were looking at their final set of options, there were sites both in Newbury and in Reading.
“If you talk to Bayer about why they went to Green Park, part of it is we don’t have a facility like Green Park here in Newbury.
“It is certainly true to say we couldn’t match Green Park. What it is certainly not true to say is that the council did nothing, so can I just put that record straight?
“The pull of London and Reading is very strong and we are some way from it and that undoubtedly had a part to play in Bayer’s decision.”