Caterham Cars showroom loss 'would send a negative image of the town'
THE iconic Caterham Cars showroom could become an eyesore if quick and decisive action is not taken, the warning has come.
The future of the Station Avenue business, which also has a workshop to service the world-renowned cars, is under a cloud following the submission of a planning application.
If it gets the go-ahead, the site would be demolished to make way for 35 sheltered housing apartments, plus 128 square metres of commercial floor space.
Town centre jeweller Andrew Browne, who chairs Caterham Business Partnership, said: "Caterham Cars moving out would be devastating for the town.
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"The company's name is known all over the world, and its loss would send out a negative image of the town."
Having even more sheltered homes is the last thing the area needed, he added.
But with the car firm's lease on the site expiring next January, Mr Browne is fearful the site could eventually become a wasteland if the planning process is allowed to rumble on.
He said he hoped that planning permission would be refused by Tandridge District Council as soon as possible, otherwise Caterham Cars would have no choice but to look for premises elsewhere.
This might mean the site "could become another Rose and Young", Mr Browne said.
The former Rose and Young car showroom, just around the corner in Croydon Road, has stood empty and decaying for the past 25 years, despite repeated council attempts to resolve the site's future.
Andy Noble, sales and marketing director for Caterham Cars which employs 25 people in Caterham, said: "If planning permission is rejected, we hope we can sort out a new lease.
"But we can't leave it too long before sorting out our future because at the moment we have only got a lease for eight months more here."
Richard Sturt from the scheme's Hampshire-based agents Planning Issues Ltd, insisted that the site has no viability for future employment.
He said: "It is extremely unlikely that any subsequent marketing, or even the construction of a replacement workshop, would generate occupiers."
Mr Sturt added that a sheltered housing scheme, together with retail space, offered a good chance to regenerate the immediate area.
And Andrew Burgess, managing director of Churchill Retirement Living which has submitted the plans, said more sheltered housing is desperately needed both locally and nationally.