A SUCCESSFUL firm which employs 650 people may be forced to leave Swindon if it does not get the planning permission it needs to expand.

And it looks as though Wasdell Group's hopes of building a huge £56m facility on land north of Wanborough might fail.

The pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution business has revived its controversial application for permission to build new headquarters on 35 hectares of land at Inlands Farm, east of the A419 near Commonhead Roundabout.

With it comes the promise of 800 more jobs for the town but the scheme has been fiercely opposed by many living in the area.

And now planning officers have recommended the application be rejected when it is put before councillors next week.

A 77-page report to be considered on Tuesday says: “The proposed development represents an unsustainable form of development on a greenfield site located within the countryside and would compromise the principle of the non-coalescence area which seeks to protect the character and identity of Wanborough, Bishopstone and Bourton.”

In response Wasdell chairman Martin Tedham said: “We are disappointed by the report. But we haven’t gone away. I’ll be hoping to persuade the members of the committee next week."

But if the committee refuses the application Mr Tedham says he will have to move his company, which has been operating from three sites – its Blagrove HQ, Europa Park and the Groundwell Industrial Estate.

In a letter to councillors h wrote: “We will not be lodging an appeal.

"Instead, we will commence the process of relocating all our Swindon operations to a new site in north Hampshire, which meets our criteria.

"In this scenario I would anticipate that Wasdell would leave Swindon completely by mid to late 2021.”

The application for a new manufacturing and distribution set-up could be followed by what the company calls a science park – facilities for research and development firms.

It has been vociferously opposed by many from the village who formed a pressure group, South Swindon Protection group. It says the development would cause light and noise pollution and ‘urbanise’ the edge of the area of outstanding natural beauty nearby.

Mr Tedham said he if he was given permission his firm could be onsite and working by the end of 2022 and would more than double its workforce.

He said: "We have customers lining up asking us to take on work, but we are full in our current site.

“We would take on another 800 people within the first year, and there would be more after that.”

The businessman added: “I want to grow my business. If I don’t get the permission I won’t have hard feelings, but I will have to just move on and take the company elsewhere.”

But the prospect of extra jobs did not sway planning officers, who say the economic befits do not outweigh the harm caused by the development.

They said: “Even if the economic and social benefits from the proposed science park were fully realised, they would not offer sufficient public benefit to outweigh the harm caused to the significance of the heritage assets, in particular Upper Wanborough Conservation Area.”

South Swindon Protection Group chairman John Warr said: ”The report is very clear that the supposed economic benefits of the proposal are not at all certain, because this is very much a speculative development.

“It also says even if all of those befits do come about it’s still not worth destroying that part of the countryside for.

“I hope the members of the committee follow the recommendations of the report. If this proposal is approved it would be open season on any patch of green around Swindon – in Blunsdon, in Highworth, in Tadpole Garden Village. It would be open season.”

By planning law members of the committee must not make their decision on any applications before the meeting and can only be convinced by reports and representations made at the meeting.

Councillors will consider the application at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday, August 25 at 6pm.

A link will be provided for members of the public to attend the virtual meeting.