A Japanese multinational company has been given permission to build its new 13.2m (43 ft) tall headquarters building in Bedford.
Bedford Council’s planning committee on Monday heard how Fujifilm, which employs half of its 300-strong UK workforce in town, had been looking at other areas, including neighbouring Milton Keynes, for its new ‘landmark’ building.
Council officers see Fujifilm, which describes itself as the world’s largest photographic and imaging company, as vital to the town’s future as a magnet to attract other big-name companies to the borough.
Planning officer Alastair Wren’s report to the committee said: “The company have been based in Bedford since 1983 and have been located in their current UK headquarters building on St Martins Way to the rear of this site since 2007.”
He added: “Their presence in Bedford has, for a number of decades, been a key component of inward investment marketing and proposition building by the team.
“Retaining a blue-chip employer such as Fujifilm and its high-value jobs is of the utmost importance for the local economy, both in the short and longer-term.”
The report added: “The scheme is seen as a key component helping to position Bedford at the centre of the Oxford Cambridge Arc in attracting companies of comparable value to Fuji to the area, and will be essential in growing the local economy and strengthen Bedford’s status as a key location in the Arc.
“If approved, the scheme will commit Fujifilm and its jobs to the local area for the foreseeable future, this is of utmost importance, especially as the impacts of Brexit and covid emerge which will potentially make the UK, at least in the short-term uncompetitive for business investment.”
The plan to build a 3,000 sq-ft three-storey Japanese-style building on 1.12 hectares of urban open space scrub-land south of Cardington Road and north of St Martins Way was on track to be considered by planning officers behind closed doors.
But four residents of Brampton Close lodged their objections on grounds of worries about traffic, noise, and flooding which meant that it had to be decided by the committee.
No objectors had their say at the meeting on Monday and planning officers recommended approving the plan with a list of 18 conditions to try to deal with concerns.
Councillors had no questions to ask, or comments to make on the night, and quickly moved to propose granting it near the end of their three-hour meeting.
Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) proposed, and Cllr Mohammed Nawaz (Lab, Kempston Central & East) just pipped Lib Dem Cllr Max Royden (Putnoe) in seconding the move which was then unanimously agreed.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter