Tue, 16 May 2017
BAYER always had one eye on a site closer to London, West Berkshire Council’s chief executive claimed last week.
The company left its UK headquarters in Newbury earlier this year after 32 years in the town and relocated its 470 employees to Green Park in Reading.
The district council came in for some fierce criticism when Bayer announced the plans, with many saying it failed to do enough to retain one of its largest employers.
Last week, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Judith Bunting quizzed council chief Nick Carter over what the council did to try and keep Bayer and what mistakes it had learnt.
Ms Bunting asked: “My question is about employment and commercial development and the loss of Bayer.
“It was no surprise to anyone who lives in Newbury that the Bayer lease was going to run out.
“We also understand that Bayer wanted to stay in Newbury, that they really wanted to be on the Faraday Road site.
“So I wanted to ask, how come they have gone to Reading?
“We need high-tech employers in the future. What does that say to companies looking to come in here?
“I would love to know what you did to keep Bayer here and how are you going to change that in the future so that we don’t lose companies like Hitachi and Amec as well?”
Mr Carter replied: “There was a lot of conversation with Bayer over a protracted period in terms of options about staying in Newbury.
“I think they had an eye on Reading and being closer to London as well.
“I think it is fair to say that. It was very clear from some of the early conversations we had.
“We put options for London Road to them. It would be unfair to say they wanted to go to London Road.
“They had concerns around London Road in terms of deliverability, they had concerns in terms of what would be around them.
“We then put a further option to them in Newbury on a greenfield site which might have been tricky to deliver but we had a partner who was willing to do that.
“And again, I think the attraction of Green Park was too much. Unfortunate, but we certainly tried.
“I do genuinely think that other sites closer to London were always in their sights and we were always competing with those sites.”
Mr Carter added that the council was doing as much as it could to prevent the same thing happening and has understanding with some of its major employers about what their aspirations were.
However, he added: “I am not giving any guarantees. At the end of the day companies will form their own view about where they want to be.
“I still think Newbury, West Berkshire, is a very attractive place for companies and perhaps a slightly more attractive place to live than perhaps to locate.
“I think it is a bit more complex than simply saying ‘can the council keep everyone here?’.
“We will certainly try, but at the end of the day there are a range of other factors in play.”