ORGANISATIONS in Dursley have reacted with sadness that Lister Petter is to move out of the town after almost 150 years but relief that it will stay close by.

The engineering company, which has at its height employed around 5,000 people in the area, is moving its 200-strong workforce to a new purpose-built site in Hardwicke, near Quedgeley.

The firm had announced in May 2010 it was considering moving outside the district to Tewkesbury because the current factory on Long Street is in a state of disrepair and is uneconomical to use.

Staff had originally hoped a new building could be built on the Littlecombe site but only a shell of a building was offered and deemed too expensive by the company to fit out.

The Vale Community Hospital was eventually built adjacent to the proposed building, making it an unsuitable location.

Chris Cherry of Vale Vision, a community-led enterprise aimed at improving the quality of life for Dursley residents, said it was a positive move overall for Dursley.

"I feel a little bit of disappointment that we are losing the jobs in Dursley but the new site seems to be within commuting distance," he said.

"It makes the rest of the St Modwen development at the Littlecombe site a little bit easier, makes it possible to make progress at the site.

"Some people do like to live on the doorstep, the commute is not always ideal. It may be just a few miles but can cause problems."

Gerry Pierce of Dursley Heritage said the company had been pivotal to the growth of the area.

“They built the Lister Hall and they bought the recreation ground after the war to become the Dursley War Memorial Recreation Ground. They also built houses in the town so they could house key workers,” he said.

“There is a feeling of sadness because of its long history in the town and it has brought in so many people outside of the town as apprenticeships and workers.”

A planning application for the new site has been submitted by developer St Modwen and the new 40,000 sq ft facility is planned to be completed in the spring of 2014 and will include production, warehouse and office accommodation.

Cllr Geoff Wheeler, leader of Stroud District Council, said maintaining and strengthening the local economy was one of their main priorities.

"Keeping Lister Petter in the district will retain 200 skilled jobs in the area, benefiting the business, its employees and the district," he said.

"At the same time it would represent a major step forward in development of the plans for the 92-acre Littlecombe site. We hope to be signing an agreement with the company very shortly."

The company is committing £2million to the project and managing director Patrick Comer said the plans to move the company had been going on for some time.

"We are pleased that we are keeping our people in this area, keeping the skills and the expertise from the local people who work for this company," he said.

"We have worked through this whole thing with the unions and we are pleased to be moving somewhere in the locality and protect the jobs."

Dursley Town Council clerk Helen Bojaniwska said they were pleased to learn that the business would be staying in the district.

"But we are obviously saddened that the business’s long history in the town will be coming to an end," she said.

"It is disappointing that the company’s expansion plans could not be accommodated in the town, but we are hopeful that additional jobs can now be created on the Littlecombe site. "The council will work with the district council to encourage new businesses to fill the space."