Talks ongoing on future of Lotus in Norfolk

Business leaders in Norfolk have pledged their support to Lotus in its bid to retain its car manufacturing arm in the county.

Discussions are ongoing between the iconic motoring company and the government over whether �50m can be provided to expand production at its Hethel base, near Norwich.

A cash injection is needed if five new models, unveiled at the Paris Motorshow two months ago, are to be manufactured at the firm's Norfolk home, otherwise the whole production line may be forced abroad to the detriment of its UK workforce.

Currently 300 people within production at the plant. If the hoped-for expansion was given the go-ahead it is estimated it would create 1,000 jobs over the next five years.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: 'We are aware that ongoing discussions are taking place between the government and Group Lotus. We are keen to ensure that Lotus maintains its manufacturing and engineering bases in Norfolk and we will do whatever we can to make sure that happens.'

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, also hoped the Lotus manufacturing arm would remain in the county.

He added: 'I drive a Lotus myself so I know first hand how world-leading engineering skills create cars that are valued the world over. We've been talking to Lotus about their ambitious plans for growth and are working with them closely to realise them in Hethel, to protect local jobs and grow the business still further.'

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A spokesman for the Lotus Group said no decision had yet been made on where its new cars would be produced.

He declined to reveal which alternative locations could be considered if the money does not become available, but assured that Hethel would always remain at the heart of the company where the engineers, designers, marketing and administration teams would continue to be housed.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said Lotus had not secured money through its Automotive Assistance Programme (AAP), where the government provides loan guarantees, but funding could still be available from its �1.4bn Regional Growth Fund.