RREC Central Southern Section

Tuesday 13 February 2001 at The Vicar's Hall, Chichester

On Tuesday evening 13 February this year at the invitation of the Chichester Chamber of Commerce, Ian and Jennifer Burt and I attended a meeting in the Vicar's Hall in Chichester given by some of the BMW Group, Project Rolls-Royce team. The panel consisted of Fred Fruth (the PR man, see page 25 of our January 2001 magazine), Carsten Pries (Manager Strategy and Control), the head of the firm retained to present the planning application, and also a representative from the firm of Architects who won the competition to design the proposed factory. Both Fred and Carsten gave very good outlines of the proposals in addition to a visual presentation from the Architects. During and after these presentations Fred, Carsten and the 'planning' man answered questions from approximately thirty or forty members of the audience. Numerous questions were from local residents ('I will be able to see the new factory from my bedroom window'), local businesses ('with only 2% unemployment where will the labour come from?') and other interested parties ('you must be mad to build an underground factory in a flood plain') ('What about the effect on the road/transport infrastructure?') etc.

We were very impressed by the commitment of Fred and Carsten relaying the commitment of BMW to the 60/80 million project and in particular to its siting in the Chichester area. This being in addition to almost a billion pounds worth of planned investment in other parts of England. The aforementioned questions and others were all addressed and answered with a quiet confidence by a team who had obviously done their research. The message from the team was that this was not going to be a factory in the usual sense of the word; no belching chimneys, no loud processes, no mass production lines, no twenty-four hour working and no light pollution. The site would produce only five Rolls-Royce motor cars a day (1,000 a year) and therefore the impact on most sections of the environment would be minimal. It was pointed out by some members of the audience that the area had and was going to lose more large employers and that the 350 to 400 new jobs ('other than tomato picking'!) would be a very welcome replacement.

As the evening wore on it seemed that all those present welcomed the proposal, as it had been clearly considered and planned with all the environmental considerations given a very high profile.

Ted Meachem - Secretary