Sidlesham car firm’s dilemma

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The owner of a garage dealing with rare luxury supercars has criticised Chichester District Council for the ‘ludicrous’ decision in granting his business planning permission to store cars – but not sell them – at a Sidlesham building.

William Kirkham, owner of Targa Florio, which sells supercars online, said he will now have to consider either making redundancies, or move location completely after the council’s decision.

Plans put in by the business to prepare and store vehicles at a converted barn in Walnut Farm Science Park were given permission. But the council laid out several conditions – which include not being able to sell vehicles on site.

Mr Kirkham said: “We have permission to be here but we can’t store anything outside, we are not allowed to wash or clean cars without talking with the Environment Agency and no customers are allowed on site – even to view the cars by appointment. These are rare cars, people seek them out.

“They have given us planning permission that is totally useless. They are saying we are in an unsustainable area because people have to travel to reach us.”

In October the Observer reported the district council’s refusal of permission for Targa Florio to trade from its rural position. This was because the Sidlesham site only permits light industry.

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 last year.

He added: “The internet is the only way to sell for us. These are specialist cars. The building is now almost just a storage pound.”

Targa Florio sells around 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.

A Chichester District Council spokesman said: “Recently the business applied for planning permission for the storage and preparation of cars and this has been permitted. The business agreed to conditions preventing a showroom and customers visiting the site.

“Our economic development team has been working with the business to find suitable alternative premises and is keen to assist the company to grow and flourish. This follows an earlier planning application in 2010 to sell cars from the site which was reviewed by a planning inspector last year. The inspector said while the existing use is low key, allowing the appeal would grant planning permission for an unrestricted use of the premises for internet/retail sales of motor vehicles, which would constitute an unsustainable use in a rural area in conflict with national policy.”