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Group Lotus HQ expansion plans approved

PUBLISHED: 06:30 03 March 2011

Expansion plans at Group Lotus were approved at South Norfolk Council.

Expansion plans at Group Lotus were approved at South Norfolk Council.

The first phase of expansion plans at a famous sports car firm were given the green light yesterday, despite fears about the increased use and noise from its test track.

The Group Lotus scheme, which will see the creation of new motorsport and chassis engineering buildings, is part of the manufacturer’s plans to increase production and bring more high skilled jobs to its headquarters at Hethel, near Wymondham.

The proposals were unanimously approved by district councillors, despite concerns from neighbours about increased traffic and noise from the site off Potash Lane.

A South Norfolk Council planning committee heard that the sports car company has plans for more manufacturing facilities to make the five new Lotus models unveiled last year and the area has been earmarked for future business park development.

Residents and parish councillors had called on an hours of use restriction at the Lotus test track, but district council planning officers yesterday said they had no powers to impose the condition on the track, which was built in 1966.

Colin Rudd, chairman of Bracon Ash and Hethel Parish Council, said the council had not objected to the planning application, but had a number of reservations.

“The two main concerns are traffic and noise from the test track. The development of this area seems to be happening piecemeal and we believe an overall traffic assessment should be carried out taking in to account all of these proposals,” he said.

Mr Rudd said Group Lotus had allayed fears by confirming that there would be no racing on the track, but the possible testing of F1 cars would create a “nuisance.”

The proposals, which were approved yesterday, were for a 15,630sqft chassis engineering building and 60,976sqft motorsport building close to the existing Lotus headquarters.

Stuart Jones, agent for Group Lotus, said the scheme was part of the company’s plans to increase car production and an earth bund was being considered to dampen test track noise.

“They [Group Lotus] believe the noise levels will not be greater than the noise currently being produced. There will not be an increase in decibel levels,” he said.

Nigel Legg, local district councillor, added: “There are concerns that these developments are taking place piecemeal and the problems of highways access and traffic movements are only being addressed for each individual application and personally I feel county highways ought to look further at the future things to see how it will impact on the local area.”

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