Wilts worried by Dyson plan to expand into greenfield vacuum

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The Independent Online
ONE MUST pity anyone who takes on the irrepressible James Dyson - the entrepreneur who single-handedly revolutionised vacuum cleaning.

Few could doubt the tenacity and determination of a man who spent 14 years trying to get his invention taken seriously and then turned it into the market leader. And it is with similar gusto that Mr Dyson, 51, approached a planning battle yesterday over expanding his headquarters. The current factory is on the edge of the medieval town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire. The site - a corporate utopia where its 1,300 workers are banned from wearing suits for fear of stifling their personalities and the canteen allegedly serves edible food - has become too small for the expanding Dyson business.

It is rumoured that the inventor, whose business achieved worldwide sales of pounds 320m last year, has now set his sights on revolutionising the washing machine, though executives yesterday would only coyly confirm his interest in other "household products".

No sooner had one huge extension to house Mr Dyson's research and development team been opened, by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, on Monday, than the chief executive announced plans to expand further.

"We arrived to celebrate the opening and were suddenly faced with proposals to double it in size. We were surprised. We felt a little bit bounced," the North Wiltshire District Council leader, Ruth Coleman, explained in a deliberately tactful tone yesterday.

"The problem is that wecould not give them planning permission because it is not designated as an industrial site on the local plan." Ms Coleman was hesitant over offending an "excellent" local employer who had helped to keep unemployment to about 2.5 per cent but admitted there had already been some local opposition to the Dyson plan.

James Dyson laughed in hearty agreement at suggestions that he was a man bent on getting his own way. "We are determined. Only part of the area is pasture. The rest is wood and scrubland."

He insisted that his company wanted to contribute towards the local community but was adamant it would desert the area should planners prevent its growth. "We would move elsewhere. It is important everybody is on one site."