Home plan may ‘damage’ Rolls-Royce’s future

Chief Executive of Rolls Royce Torsten Muller Otvos, left, with the Business Minister Mark Prisk, pictured in 2011
Chief Executive of Rolls Royce Torsten Muller Otvos, left, with the Business Minister Mark Prisk, pictured in 2011

THE LONG-TERM future of Rolls-Royce in Chichester may be under threat from housing development, according to the company’s chief executive.

Torsten Müller-Ötvös has written a letter to Chichester District Council’s planning department, saying Commercial Estate Group’s 350-home application at Old Place Farm, in Westhampnett, would be ‘damaging’ to the company as it would extend Chichester eastwards.

“Rolls-Royce will effectively be located within a housing estate that is indistinguishable from any UK urban location; exactly the situation we sought so hard to avoid.”

He wrote that the Goodwood site for the company’s plant was selected in 1998 as the ‘only location in the UK capable of meeting the company’s exacting requirements’.

“It is a location that attracts our clients throughout the wold to visit, choose the specification of their vehicles and see them in production.

“It has enabled us to provide more than 1,000 jobs of the highest quality and skills and helped us to develop strong and advanced training programmes so that we have a very highly-skilled 
and valued workforce that we believe is a great asset to the area as a whole.”

He added: “Were it to be approved and built, we believe it would be damaging to Rolls-Royce, not least because it would damage the important physical separation between Goodwood and the city, a gap that is a fundamental part of our choice of this location as our world headquarters and which we fully reflect in promoting our brand throughout the world.”

Mr Müller-Ötvös said a ‘modest expansion’ of Westhampett might be acceptable, if undertaken with care and regard to the area’s character.

However, he added: “The scale and density of this proposed development gives rise to serious concern that those specific locational needs will be eroded to the extent that may damage the long-term future of the Rolls-Royce manufacturing plant and our role in the local economy.”

In response, a spokesman for Commercial Estates Group, the company behind the Westhampnett homes site, said: “We note the comments made by Rolls Royce, which are broadly similar to previous comments made during the draft local plan consultations.

“We continue to listen to stakeholder concerns and review their comments.

“We are confident that this is a high-quality scheme in line with the allocation made through the draft local plan.”

The Old Place farm site is one of the strategic locations for housing identified in the council’s emerging local plan.