Sidlesham supercar dealer may be driven out

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A garage dealing with rare luxury supercars may have to relocate to another part of the country – because it doesn’t fit in with planning rules.

Targa Florio, based in a converted barn in Sidlesham, is an internet-based company which sells about 100 cars a year.

But the vehicles are no ordinary cars – they include from a Mercedes SLS worth £196,000 to a rare Jaguar XJ150 Drophead, as well as luxury marques Audi, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW.

Company owner William Kirkham said: “We sell very exclusive cars at the very top end of the market, so in the main our customers are not local – we deal with people in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and the like.

“They often see a car on our website and buy it without actually seeing it – even if it costs £50,000 or more.

“We are lucky if one prospective customer a day actually comes to our premises in Walnut Farm Science Park in Sidlesham.”

The Sidlesham site permits only light industry, And because Targa Florio sells vehicles, planners have used the same guidelines as they would if it was a main dealer – and have refused permission for it to trade from its rural position.

Mr Kirkham added: “We’re nothing like a main dealer. We don’t have or want passing trade, and whereas we may sell 100 cars in a year, a high-street dealer will sell that number in a month.

“Our neighbours like us being here – we’ve never received a complaint – and our local councillor wants us to stay, but because we don’t fit into the guidelines we have to move.

“If we move locally it will cost us in excess of £80,000. We have already had to lay off three workers, and another has left because of the uncertainty over our future.

“We won’t close – the business turns over between £3m and £4m a year, so we’ll carry on, even though moving to Surrey now looks favourite. That means the local area will lose a thriving business, will lose six jobs, and will lose the £250,000 we put into the local economy, with the work we pass on to body repair shops, garages, spray shops, valeting and the like.

“What’s crazy is that if I built kit cars here, or repaired cars, which could mean more customers turning up, more noise and more pollution, then that would be allowed.”

Mr Kirkham appealed against the council’s decision, but it was upheld by a government inspector, and he was told he had to move out of the premises by the end of the year.