Sunday, 19 September 2021

Watch company relocation set to be approved

PLANS by Bremont to move its headquarters across Henley are set to be approved despite not

PLANS by Bremont to move its headquarters across Henley are set to be approved despite not being in keeping with the town’s neighbourhood plan.

The luxury watchmaker wants to move from Sawmills, an award-winning building off Marlow Road, to a purpose-built 18,000 sq ft complex in a field at Sheephouse Farm, off Reading Road, immediately south of the Jubilee Park playing fields.

Both sites are owned by the Culden Faw estate, which belongs to multi-millionaire financier Urs Schwarzenbach and submitted the planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council.

The two-acre site was not included in the joint Henley and Harspden neighbourhood plan.

Harpsden and Shiplake Parish Councils have both objected, saying the site was not designated for commercial development in the plan while the former Wyevale garden centre further along Reading Road was.

But Henley Town Council has recommended Bremont&rsquos application is approved because there are “exceptional” reasons why the firm needs to relocate and the move would boost the local economy.

District council planning officer Tom Wyatt says there is a “compelling” case for permitting the development because the company needs to expand and the new offices could accommodate 70 staff.

In a report to councillors, he says: “The business requires additional space in order to expand and consolidate some of its processes which take place elsewhere.

“In terms of pure space requirements, it may be possible for Bremont to relocate to an alternative existing employment site within the town, such as Newtown Road, or the allocated site at the former Wyevale garden centre, for example.

“The applicant has explained why such locations would not be practical or viable for the business.

“These reasons include that these alternative sites are not owned by the applicant, who is in unique position to develop the site in partnership with Bremont.

“If Bremont relocated to land not owned by the applicant they would need to purchase the land and self-fund the construction of the development.

“In these circumstances it is unlikely that the development would be viable, particularly having regard to the quality of the proposed development.

“In addition, Bremont needs a very clean working environment due to the nature of the watchmaking process, which would be harder to achieve on an industrial site in the presence of other businesses.

“Furthermore, Bremont has built up a reputation for high-quality exclusive watches aimed at the high end of the market. The company has boutique stores in London, New York and Hong Kong.

“For these reasons it is understandable that the company does not wish to occupy premises within an industrial area with limited control over the appearance of the surroundings.”

Mr Wyatt continued: “Bremont is an important local business and employer and the company and the town of Henley are a good fit in terms of their international reputation. I consider that there is a compelling case for permitting this development.”

The plans have been drawn up by architect Spratley Studios, of Station Road, Henley, which designed Bremont&rsquos existing oak-framed building, which was named best small commercial development in the 2013 Local Authority Building Control Building Excellence Awards.

Bremont, which was founded in 2002 by brothers Nick and Giles English, moved there in 2013 and currently employs about 40 people.

The new complex would be more than three times the size and would include offices, a workshop and laboratory that would be specially ventilated to keep them dust-free.

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