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Red tape hits new Lotus variant

Lotus has had to put “on hold” the development and sale of a specialised export version of its sports car because of the high cost of ‘red tape’ imposed by local and national government.

A furious Mike Kimberley, chief executive of Group Lotus, said: “When I rejoined Lotus as chief executive (two and a half years ago) the Lotus Europa and Esprit were to be built in Malaysia.

I am under tremendous pressure to move production off-shore.

“We have resisted that but there is such a lack of recognition by Government of the wealth-creating potential of car and technology industries in Britain. It is soul destroying.

“Business is on a roll here, and I was going to hire another 57 people but have now had to cancel one of the model variants because of the escalating costs and obstacles heaped upon us.”

Kimberley confirmed that the automatic and convertible variants of the mid-engined £50,000-plus car are being developed, but he would not describe the nature of the variant that has been canned.

First came planning problems over an application to build a small wind farm that would have made the factory site in Hethel self-sufficient in low-cost energy. “It is quite absurd. 

There is nothing around us in this arable part of Norfolk to protest other than acres of swedes and pheasants.” Planning permission was eventually granted after long, expensive appeal.

Then came a rates assessment that imposed a £159,000 increase on the previous year – the money being taken straight out of the company’s bank through the direct debit arrangement. Kimberley has protested to local MP Richard Bacon.

The group has disclosed £2 million profit for the year to the end of March 2008 compared with the previous year’s £7 million loss.

Within a matter of weeks a pension levy came out of the blue.
“It was for £706,000, despite the strong balance sheet and improved operations. I have implored the Chancellor to understand the difficulties of Britain’s high technology engineering and car companies.”

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