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Crunch talks underway at Caterham to decide Norfolk firm’s future

PUBLISHED: 09:25 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:12 27 November 2014

Tony Fernandes. Picture: Press Association

Tony Fernandes. Picture: Press Association

PA Wire

Bosses at automotive group Caterham are locked in crunch talks to determine the fate of its business in Norfolk, the EDP understands.

An artist's impression of the proposed expansion of Caterham Cars at Hingham An artist's impression of the proposed expansion of Caterham Cars at Hingham

Uncertainty has surrounded the company since Tony Fernandes sold Caterham F1 in July, sparking questions as to whether or not he would walk away from its Hingham-based engineering and development centre, which employs 68 people.

However,in a short statement, the firm insisted that it was business as usual “at this time.”

The mood is far cry from the positive outlook from more than a year ago when the it outlined a bold vision to create a new production plant and 130 jobs at Hingham.

Since then, Caterham Technology and Innovation (CTI) has seen a deal to build a new mid-engined Alpine sports car with Renault break down, calling time on a 19-month partnership.

Simon Coward, director of the Hethel Engineering Centre, near Wymondham, said Norfolk’s automotive industry had been “somewhat turbulent”, but it was important to keep supporting the sector.

“Engineering and manufacturing businesses make up nearly 10pc of Norfolk’s workforce and generates more than 13pc of Norfolk’s gross value added. So supporting engineering and manufacturing businesses in Norfolk is vital.”

CTI revealed a two-year plan in September last year to create a new production plant in Norfolk, which would play a key role in delivering the next generation of Caterham Cars.

The announcement was later followed by a letter from Norfolk MPs George Freeman and Richard Bacon, urging business secretary Vince Cable to free up £5m to help Caterham move its factory in Dartford to Hingham – or risk losing the operation to France

But while Caterham admitted it was seeking funding from the government, it quashed claims that it was planning to move its operation overseas, stating that it was committed to its UK-based workforce.

Peter Eldridge, chairman of Hingham Town Council, said: “We would love Caterham to stay in Hingham because it brings a lot of kudos to the town and high-quality engineering jobs. We hope they will carry on.”

• Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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