March 12 2014 Latest news:
Exclusive, Ben Woods, Business writer
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Business secretary Vince Cable has been issued an ultimatum by two Norfolk MPs to back Caterham Cars proposed move to Norfolk – or risk losing the iconic brand to France.
In a letter seen by the EDP, MPs George Freeman and Richard Bacon have urged Dr Cable to give the green light to Caterham’s bid for £5m of government funding to move its factory in Dartford to its Hingham-based innovation centre, near Wymondham.
But MPs fear that rejecting the bid may encourage the company to become UK exiles and move its production facilities – including Caterham Technology and Innovation (CTI) at Hingham – to Dieppe in France, where the firm is working with Renault on a new sports car.
The revelation comes after CTI, which employs 110 people in Norfolk, recently announced it would be creating 130 new jobs at Hingham by building a new production plant.
However, Graham Macdonald, chief executive of the Caterham Group, said the firm was committed to its UK-based workforce and had no current plan to move its supply – or production facilities– abroad.
The letter to Dr Cable states: “Caterham Cars in Dartford, which as you will know is one of the three parts of the Caterham Group [...] is facing the expiry of its lease in Dartford and considering a move to France.
“As you will understand, this would be a huge lost opportunity for the UK and potentially hugely damaging to the Norfolk cluster, carrying serious risk of Caterham Technology and Innovation’s team leaving Hingham to move to France at the same time.
“If we could encourage Caterham Cars to move to Hingham rather than Dieppe we would significantly boost the South Norwich and Norfolk cluster, as well as the automotive sector.”
According to the letter, Caterham have applied for a £5m grant from Business Innovation and Skills under the Automated Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative to facilitate the Hingham move.
Currently, the Caterham Group is based in Dartford, Hingham, and houses its Formula 1 operation in Oxfordshire.
Mr Macdonald said: “Caterham can confirm that it has made a funding application in relation to its Hingham facility, which currently houses its in-house technology arm, Caterham Technology & Innovation.
“Caterham is committed to its UK-based workforce and would like to stress that there is no current plan to move Caterham supply chain or production facilities abroad. Caterham is a proudly British company and, while the new flagship sports car that is being developed in conjunction with Renault as a result of the 50:50 joint venture partnership announced last year, will be built at a Renault-owned Dieppe factory, Caterham is keen to retain its UK facilities wherever possible.”
Norwich architects Feilden+Mawson have submitted plans to South Norfolk Council on behalf of CTI for a 7,000sqm facility at Hingham, which the company said will bring new positions in engineering and manufacturing.
A spokesman for South Norfolk Council said: “Caterham Technology applied for planning permission to extend their facility in South Norfolk as they consider their options for future expansion.
“As with all major planning applications the council worked closely with the applicant, Caterham Cars, offering pre planning advice, helping to identify areas of possible concern and areas of opportunity.
He added: “We understand that Caterham are now awaiting the outcome of bids for funding, that if successful will help fund the new building and plant that will see expansion and consolidation to its existing operations.
“South Norfolk Council welcomes and encourages inward investment into the district and the employment opportunities that follow and fully supports Caterham Cars in their bids for funding.”
Meanwhile, George Freeman, MP for mid-Norfolk, added “The government has rightly recognised the importance of the South Norfolk and Norwich technology cluster, with the Norwich Research Park, Caterham, Lotus at Hethel and the Hethel Engineering Centre.
“The possible relocation of Caterham Cars from Dartford to Norfolk is a real opportunity for us to bring them back to the Norfolk automotive cluster, which is recognised as key hub for long-term growth.
“To bring Caterham Cars back to Norfolk would be a major boost of confidence for economic growth in the region, and a shot in the arm for local job creation.”