TWO car dealerships in Wilmslow face closure – with 133 jobs under threat – after councillors blocked an attempt to move them to a new site.

Phillip Jones, managing director of Halliwell Jones, revealed a letter from BMW UK to Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board on Wednesday as it was discussing the firm’s plans to build a state-of-the-art site near Handforth Dean.

He told the committee that the letter said BMW would terminate its franchise agreement for Wilmslow if it could not agree a move to new premises because its existing BMW and Mini showrooms, both off Dean Row Road, are no longer fit for purpose.

CEC officers had recommended the scheme should be refused, and Mr Jones told the board that was ‘confusing, disappointing and therefore potentially catastrophic for my business and indeed many of my employees’.

He said: “I have here today official documentation sent to me by two senior directors of BMW UK which is not threatening to remove my Wilmslow franchise, it is in fact an absolute letter of termination.

“It is a termination of my business effective from September 30 this year. Subsequently upon my appeal it has been deferred until June 2019, subject to being rescinded only if I have in place by this time concrete and approved local authority and BMW plans for the development.

“Please, I urge you, do not accept the comments in the documents placed before you, with the statement that only ‘moderate weight’ should be placed upon this employment. Try saying that to my staff.”

Mr Jones added that the planning application was the result of 10 years’ work by both his company and the former franchise holders Bluebell in looking for a new site, and that 85 per cent of his Wilmslow staff had ‘highly technical’ roles.

Officers had recommended the scheme for refusal because the site is designated by CEC as ‘employment’ land – and car showrooms do not fall under that category.

They suggested that open space surrounding the site would be lost and woodland habitats could be affected, while Mr Jones was also asked if his firm had cut down trees from the site – which he strongly denied.

Cllr Barry Burkhill, independent member for Handforth, suggested that the scheme needed to be ‘reduced in size’ – with its proximity to Handforth Hall and a nearby brook causing problems.

Cllr Toni Fox, independent member for Wilmslow Dean Row, added: “Obviously we don’t want to lose the garage, it’s a good local employer.

“But I’m worried about what is going to happen to the two existing sites should this be given approval, I agree with Cllr Burkhill that the proposal is too big for the site and that more consideration needs to be given to the ecology and woodland.

“It’s a priority habitat site, and with all the development that’s going on in this local area – we’ve got the care village just up the road and there’s going to be 75 houses next to that – we’ve got to protect what little ribbons of green corridor we have got left.”

Members voted to refuse the scheme by seven votes to four – although Cllr Gill Merry, chairman of the strategic planning board, suggested it ‘does not prevent the applicant’ proposing a smaller scheme in future.