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3,000 jobs bombshell
A FLAGSHIP plan to bring thousands of new high-tech jobs to Worcester risks losing its Government funding after a key employer pulled out of the project.
In a shock announcement yesterday, Worcester Bosch said it was pulling out of the proposed Worcester Technology Park.
It had been lined up by the project leader Worcestershire County Council as the anchor tenant for the first building phase of the park, which was granted planning permission in 2011. County council economic leaders say they are now seeking other partners for the development.
However, it is a severe blow to what is a keystone of the county’s economic aspirations, as planning for the project has been in the pipeline for three years.
Bosch had been predicted to provide up to 1,000 new jobs, with almost double that number to be created by other businesses following Bosch on to the site.
However, city MP Robin Walker who has lobbied hard for the project, confirmed there is now nothing to stop the Government from withdrawing the £17.8 million it had ring-fenced for the project. The cash came through the now scrapped Advantage West Midlands development agency.
Mr Walker said he was seeking “an urgent meeting” with Michael Fallon, newly incumbent Business Minister at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, which now holds the fate of the tech park in its hands.
Mr Walker said: “In theory Michale Fallon could pull the money out – and it’s important we put the case foward, and explain it has the support of business through the Local Enterprise Partnership and councils.”
Explaining its decision, Carl Arntzen of Bosch said the economic outlook for growth in the heating and renewable heating sectors was not strong enough for the company to pursue a wholesale move to the tech park site.
He said: “While Bosch is performing with resilience, the overall market for heating and hot water products has declined as a result of current economic conditions.
“Also, the projected growth and support in the UK market for renewable energy products has not materialised.
“It is necessary to take a prudent and cautious approach and so the significant investment required to relocate to the new technology park cannot be justified on commercial grounds.”
Councillor Simon Geraghty, the council’s head of economic development, said Bosch had had to make “an extremely difficult commercial decision in not going further” with the tech park, and welcomed its commitment to Worcester, keeping a manufacturing and headquarters base in the city.