200 jobs ‘on the line’ as council makes £8m planning application ‘U-turn’
PUBLISHED: 11:25 04 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:17 05 March 2020
Two hundred jobs could be lost after a council turned its back on an approved planning application to make changes to a long-awaited bridge.
Nexen Lift Truck Technology say they are one of Lowestoft's biggest employers, trading in excess of £6.5 million each year with clients across the globe.
To keep up with demand the forklift manufacturers applied for permission to build an £8 million, 40,000 sq ft office extension in 2007.
The application was approved by Suffolk County Council, though construction was delayed by the 2008 financial crisis while Nexen accrued necessary funds.
By late 2019 Nexen had attracted investors and contractors and were ready to build on the land they deposited on in 2006.
But they say a "last minute" change of plans to Lowestoft's long-awaited third crossing bridge, which will be built near the Nexen site, means the company may not be allowed to build the extension they say would have protected 50 jobs and created 150 new jobs.
"It's unacceptable, we have been tolerant and tried to work with the council. But it's been kick after kick," said company director Tim Mason.
"They made the U-turn on our application, and we have not been unreasonable and put common sense recommendations to them."
He added: "They don't understand the situation we're in. They say it's to do with swings and angles and cameras, but we employed a private highways engineer who said the bridge could have been moved further west. I think the council just don't want to knock down their tiny registry office that could go anywhere."
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Mr Mason said Nexen, which previously made forklifts from factories in Asia before moving to Lowestoft, may be forced to once again outsource some of its manufacturing abroad if the proposed changes go ahead.
"We love Lowestoft and want to boost the local economy. But it seems crazy to us the town could lose another business, we could go under," he said.
Mr Mason added that the lift truck technology company is also concerned about access to their site during the third crossing's construction.
"We manage multi-million pound orders all over the globe and if we miss a delivery, they will come after us for damages."
Nexen say the council is "pressing" them into signing a land and works agreement, which they are refusing to sign.
Mr Mason said: "We need a guarantee for alternative access before we sign it. But we have no confidence in the agreement's assurances that the construction company will leave access.
"What will we do if 40 cement lorries are stuck by our main entrance?"
Suffolk County Council said they were "conscious" of the issues raised by Nexen and added the land and works agreement would ensure access to the business during construction.
A spokesperson said: "The council has been negotiating with Nexen for several years over the third crossing and fully understands the points that have been raised.
"Conscious of the importance of supporting ongoing operations of successful local businesses, the council has put forward a legal agreement which would preserve access to the Nexen site throughout construction and beyond, including by providing two access points with adequate headroom.
"The council considers the agreement represents a fair proposition balancing the need to deliver the third crossing in an affordable manner and at the same time safeguarding Nexen's interests. Unfortunately, Nexen has elected not to enter that agreement."