CITY leaders have been urged not to talk openly about commercial land being available in the city - in case it puts off investors.

Former city council leader, Councillor David Barlow, warned against seeming "negative" after hearing fellow members of the policy and resources committee voice concerns about sites lying idle.

"The report here says that 'a positive perception of an area can tip the balance in favour when businesses are deciding whether to stay or to expand'," he told a meeting this week.

The document - prepared by the head of development and economic development, Mark Middleton - warned that land vacancy rates could "create an immediate negative visual impact and signal to potential investors that something may be wrong with the local economy".

"All the talk about space being available could seriously run down Worcester's prospects," said Coun Barlow.

Conservatives had been challenged to put their money where their mouths were after Coun Stephen Inman told the committee his party was committed to "working 101 per cent" in its search for brownfield land.

"We must use every square inch," he pledged, despite Mr Middleton's report stating that the city's needs could not be met within Worcester's boundaries if development at Grove Farm were ruled out.

But Labour member Roger Berry said he was tired of speeches without any strategy to match.

"Are you going to offer them subsidies or rate-free deals?" he asked Coun Inman.

"It isn't good enough to say we 'must work 101 per cent'. You've been talking about this issue for a long time - including before you took control of the council."

But the chairman of the committee and the council leader, Coun Robert Rowden, ruled out Coun Berry's suggestions.

"If we did that we'd be going against the current Local Plan," he said.

Coun Berry claimed this meant the situation would continue until 2002, when a new Local Plan - at the moment being revised - was adopted.