Lotus expansion plans set to create new Norfolk jobs

Plans have been submitted for new state-of-the-art motoring facilities, which would bring highly skilled jobs and ensure all Lotus cars continue to be developed in Norfolk.

The iconic Hethel-based firm wants to build a new Motorsports Centre, chassis engineering facility and upgrade its test track to bring it in line with rigorous FIA safety standards.

The plans boast that the development will define Hethel as 'a centre of engineering excellence' by drawing highly qualified people to the area.

The firm said: 'Lotus aims to provide south Norfolk with a facility to support the anticipated growth of Norwich, Wymondham, Attleborough and the surrounding villages by generating new high skilled jobs and opportunities which will be of postive value to the local economy.

'The proposal will allow Lotus to continue to produce cars at the Hethel site – keeping production within the UK will help boost the country's economics and provide a stronghold for automative production and design within Norfolk.

'There are currently 1,500 members of staff employed at the site, consisting of approximately 225 office staff and 1,275 factory staff. The staff numbers are anticipated to increase by 500 to provide a workforce of 2,000 staff members.'

A spokesman for Group Lotus declined to reveal how much the company intended to invest in the new facilties.

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It is is understood the firm is awaiting a decision over whether it will be awarded �40m from the grovernment's Regional Growth Fund to expand the Hethel site to meet plans to more than double car production after unveiling five new models at the Paris Auto Show in September. The company has warned that it intends to shift production to existing European plants if the bid is turned down.

Group Lotus CEO Danny Bahar said: 'Our test track is a vital part of the development of all our cars, both road and track.

'These improvements will ensure that all Lotus cars and those of our engineering clients will continue to be developed in Norfolk.

'A better test track will mean even better Lotus cars in the future.'

The proposals include a two-storey Motorsports Centre, with a total floor space of 60,976 sqft, complete with office space for up to 60 desks, two private offices, a meeting room, welfare facilities such as changing rooms and a curved glazed area where cars will be showcased.

The chassis engineering facility, to be built central to the test track with a total floor space of 15,630 sq ft, will provide garages for various maintenance and performance tests on cars, while the central block will house a hospitality area and a glazed viewing tower for guests and clients, as well as facilities such as showers and lockers.

Lotus director of motorsport Claudio Berro said: 'These improvements to the test track and our new Motorsports Centre will enable us to create a fantastic facility to welcome our guests from around the world to experience all that is wonderful, exclusive and innovative about Lotus.

'I can't think of anywhere better to put our famous ride and handling to the test than at the Lotus test track.'