FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
BROMSGROVE, JAN. 11
Representatives of 2,000 residents at Cofton Hackett, Worcestershire, a village on the industrial fringe of Birmingham, said today that they would fight at every stage a proposal by the British Motor Corporation to extend the Austin factory at Longbridge on 51 acres of green belt land.
Sir Leonard Lord, chairman of B.M.C., recently announced a £49m. expansion scheme to raise the corporation’s annual output of vehicles from 750,000 to a million in the next two years and the corporation are at present engaged in negotiations with the Government over the location of new factories. The Government are anxious that further development of the prosperous motor industry should be directed to areas such as Wales and Scotland.
Mr George Harriman, deputy chairman of B.M.C., has met Mr Maudling, President of the Board of Trade, and is believed to have offered to direct part of the group’s expansion to new areas, provided that the Government sanctioned a further extension of the Longbridge factory.
Government policy is normally strongly opposed to further industrial development in the Birmingham area, where the lowest level of unemployment in Britain is combined with a high degree of industrial congestion. The Board of Trade grant industrial development certificates to firms there only when the applicants can prove that an extension is wanted for an integrated industrial process that could not be located away from existing plant. The Austin factory, which covers 250 acres and employs more than 20,000 workers, is already by far the biggest in Birmingham. B.M.C. have now applied to the Board of Trade for a certificate to allow them to expand the factory on adjoining land at Cofton Hackett which they already own.
An official of the board said today that it was not known when a decision would be reached. An additional complication is that this land has been zoned by Worcestershire County Council as part of a proposed green belt which has yet to be approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. B.M.C. have objected to the inclusion of their land in the restricted area, claiming that it is needed for the natural expansion of their factory.
The villagers of Cofton Hackett have formed a protection association to resist the corporation’s plans. Mr S. H. Phillips, the chairman, said to-day: “An expansion of the Austin factory would create even greater labour problems in Birmingham and the demand for housing which cannot be met now would be further increased.”