Caterham forced to move out of Caterham

Caterham Cars is having to find a new home following the overturning of a planning decision by the local council in Caterham, Surrey.

Yes, you can take the Caterham out of Caterham – despite the best will of Caterham council.

Turns out that property developers owned the site on which Caterham’s famous business has lived since 1973. Caterham has, for several years, had to agree a lease for the home it’s had for four decades.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of the site by Caterham’s landlord was denied last summer. This decision went to appeal, though – and it’s since been overruled. Caterham thus has to depart by the end of the month, or around a week at the time of writing.

It’s therefore going to a temporary site while it finds a more permanent home. Caterham Cars is, literally (albeit partly), homeless: temporary accommodation in Crawley must do while it takes stock.

Doesn’t this strike you as odd? That a planning decision that would involve forcing a brand set for the big time out of the location it started out at has succeeded? That newbuild construction can outweigh the logic of letting a company named after the town stay in the town centre base it grew from?

The production and administration side of the business has long since moved out of Caterham. It was relocated to Kent back in 1987. But the showroom remained, despite founder Graham Nearn’s son Simon selling the business in 2005: they retained the freehold on the site.

Most locals were apparently proud of this link, and a protest was even staged last year to try and ensure the planning decision wasn’t passed. Alas, it didn’t succeed.

Instead, that association is to disappear. And what’s happening to the Station Avenue business many of us know so well? It’s being knocked down and turned into 35 retirement flats.

Absolutely bizarre. I’m sure, to some government officials, it makes complete sense. Seems to me, though, a planning decision that those involved in forcing it through may come to bitterly regret in coming years.

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