Businessman accused of a 'lack of respect'
THE son of Caterham Cars' founder has been accused of showing a lack of respect for people in Caterham over his outspoken comments on the firm's future there.
With huge numbers campaigning for the iconic sports car manufacturer to remain in town, cold water has been poured on their plans by Simon Nearn – whose father Graham launched Caterham Cars in 1973.
Speaking from his home in Australia, Mr Nearn told the Mirror: "It is regrettable that there is an 'outcry' to keep the company in the town when they have never shown any commitment to stay."
He added: "With a makeshift workshop in an old hall and limited showroom space, perhaps this site is no longer suited as an HQ for part of a multi-million pound group, including a Formula 1 team and a premiership football team."
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A plan to demolish the company's site in Station Avenue, Caterham, and build 25 retirement flats was, he argued, "well thought-through and in line with council guidelines".
Mr Nearn added: "Caterham Cars has refused to commit to anything but a short-term lease paying minimal rent.
"The trustees of the pension fund owning the site have had no choice but to look at alternatives."
Mr Nearn insisted he is not the current owner of the site but the planning application from developer Churchill Retirement Living states that he is.
Caterham district councillor Beverley Connolly said: "With all the emotional attachment people have shown over retaining this site, Mr Nearn is not showing enough respect for local people's views.
"It's heartless to presume this use should be torn from Caterham – it's part of the town's heart and soul."
Andy Noble, Caterham Cars' sales and marketing director based in Caterham, insists the firm does want to stay on the site.
He added: "We have been trying to renegotiate a new lease.
"I think Mr Nearn would like to see a maximum return from the site, but what's the point of having more retirement homes there when there are already dozens of similar empty properties across the town?"
Chris Windridge, the chairman of the A Better Caterham group, said: "I don't share the view that the proposed development has such a good profile.
"People will want to see every effort made to keep this employer and have doubts over what is proposed.
"Mr Nearn will have to understand that, having created a strong brand, many more people will want to rally round than when it was a smaller but no less iconic operation."
Huge numbers have opposed the retirement homes plan.
Two Save Caterham Cars Facebook sites have more than 1,400 members or likes between them.
And around 300 objections to the plan have been sent to Tandridge District Council.
Only three letters, each of them identical, support the scheme – from residents with addresses in Caterham, Beckenham and Hailsham in East Sussex.