Land-loss blow for forklift firm

A successful business has been forced to abandon plans to create 50 jobs after land on which it wanted to expand was made the subject of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) by council bosses.

A successful business has been forced to abandon plans to create 50 jobs after land on which it wanted to expand was made the subject of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) by council bosses.

Instead, the Lowestoft-based Nexen Group, which builds and hires out forklift trucks, has bought a new factory in Taiwan after being told land it had earmarked for its extension was to be the site of a new multi-million-pound council head-quarters.

Last night, its sales director Pam Oakes revealed that the long-term future of the existing company in the town was uncertain and it had previously contemplated moving to the Broadland Business Park, near Norwich.

The controversy is the latest in a long-running saga, which saw CPOs handed out to several businesses on five parcels of land at the Riverside Business Park to clear the site for a £40m base for Waveney District and Suffolk County councils, as well as the CEFAS marine science laboratory.

Although they will be paid compensation, businesses have opposed the plans and opposition councillors on the Tory-led council claimed the proposals had not been properly debated.

Yesterday, it emerged the plans for the new council building, called the Waveney Campus, will be the subject of a public inquiry this summer.

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Mrs Oakes said: “It's ridiculous that we've got to give these jobs to people in Taiwan. All those jobs we were going to create for Lowestoft people have gone.

“The biggest problem is there is no other land in the area for us to carry out that production. How much longer we can remain in Lowestoft, I don't know.

“Manufacturing in England has gone, but we wanted to bring manufacturing back here to Lowestoft. Our hands were totally tied and we could not hang on for six months to decide whether to buy the factory in Taiwan.”

Mrs Oakes said her family had been involved in the forklift truck business for more than four decades and expanded into manufacturing about five years ago. Since then the business has expanded, building about 300 trucks a year and employing 60 people.

Nexen's application to build a new site opposite its current base at the old sauce and pickle factory, in Riverside Road, was rejected by members of Waveney District Council's development control meeting on Wednesday because it would prejudice the campus project.

However, Nexen was told it could apply for a certificate of appropriate alternative development, which establishes what the land could have been developed for if it had not been subjected to a CPO. If granted, the certificate is taken into account when fixing the market value of the land and gives landowners more power when negotiating compensation.

The development would have featured 38 business units, covering three office blocks. Initially, parts of the site would have been leased out to other firms, with Nexen expanding its presence there over time. Its current site at Riverside is unaffected by the CPO and an application to build more office space elsewhere on the park is expected to be heard in the near future.

Sally Spore, leader of the opposition Labour group on the district council, said: “We haven't got an issue with the campus project as such, but if businesses have objected, due process needs to be followed and members of the council should be kept informed.”

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said the inspector's report from the forthcoming public inquiry would be ruled on by the secretary of state for communities and local government, Ruth Kelly.