PLANS for a car dealership which could create 36 jobs and secure 133 existing ones look set to be rejected today – as officers insist it is not an ‘employment’ site.

Halliwell Jones wants to close its current BMW and Mini showrooms in Dean Row Road, and move to a new site close to Handforth Dean.

DPP Planning, acting on behalf of Halliwell Jones, said the firm’s existing Wilmslow sites are ‘no longer fit for purpose’ – and it estimates that between 93 and 163 full-time equivalent jobs could be created by other companies which move into its existing premises.

But ahead of a strategic planning board meeting today, Cheshire East Council officers have called on members to reject the scheme because the ‘showroom element’ of the development would not count as an employment site.

In a report, officers said that ‘only moderate weight’ can be attached to the benefits of retaining an existing employer at the new site.

“Any financial benefits from business rates will simply be transferred from the applicant’s existing sites, which will not necessarily be redeveloped for business use,” the report said.

“In support of the application the applicant notes that a large proportion of the site and floorspace will fall within an employment use class. Only the showroom element would not fall within a traditional employment use class.

“Whilst this is acknowledged, these details relate only to the floorspace of the building, it makes no reference to the external display areas, which cover a significant proportion of the site. The primary use of the site is considered to be the showroom element, which is not an employment use.

“The proposal will result in the loss of employment land at a time when the council has recently taken land out of the greenbelt to allocate additional employment land as part of the local plan. Accordingly the proposal is not sustainable development, and the application is recommended for refusal.”

Officers have also raised concerns that the development would lead to the loss of wildlife habitats – while it could also have an impact on great crested newts in the ponds at Handforth Hall.

Handforth Parish Council had raised no objections to the scheme, although it called for mature trees to be preserved and for the dealership only to be open between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Parish councillors also want CEC to monitor the air quality of the site, and use any section 106 funding from the developer to pay for a pelican crossing in Coppice Way.

The 15,098sq m site would also have parking space for 483 cars, including eight disabled spaces.