Concerns raised over possible Lotus F1 team withdrawal from Norfolk
The prospect of Norfolk waving goodbye to its prestigious Formula One team has left community leaders feeling 'sad' and 'disappointed'.
Tony Fernandes, team principal at Team Lotus, said the racing outfit would be looking to leave its Hingham base by the start of next season.
Sites close to Silverstone or Formula One peers Williams, in Oxfordshire, have been mooted as possible homes, but sources at Hingham say no decision has been made on how much of the team is likely to relocate.
However they have confirmed that Hingham will remain a key base for the motorsport constructor.
Peter Eldridge, chairman of Hingham Town Council, said: 'I would imagine the biggest impact would be on local shops and restaurants. The guys who work there do tend to come into the town quite a lot to buy their lunches. An awful lot of the people who work there do seem to come from outside the town so it would impact not just Hingham but the county.'
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He added: 'It would be a sad loss for the town. It gives us quite a high profile internationally. You always hope the team does well in the way you support Norwich City football club – you support your local team.'
Mike Reynolds, who works part-time at A.C. Bacon Engineering close to the Team Lotus factory, estimated that the company employed over 200 people, but could not say how many of these were local workers.
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He said: 'They are very much part and parcel of the village and, while I have no doubt the village will survive, there seems to be a lot of new businesses opening up, like those who come to deliver sandwiches and things like that, which could be affected. I just think it would be a shame for the village.'
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, hoped the area's reputation for 'engineering excellence' would not be damaged by the departure. He said: 'Norfolk's long and proud link with Lotus is an important part of our area's engineering excellence – a case we as local MPs have made to government for infrastructure to unlock our economic potential.'
County councillor Steven Dorrington, who represents the Hingham area, said it was early days to predict the effect the loss of the large employer would have locally.
'Obviously I'm very disappointed and concerned about what it could mean. However it's extremely difficult to judge the effect as it may not be happening until next year and it's not for definite yet,' he said.