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Friday, 18 April 2014

Staff will move to new AkzoNobel site

UP to three-quarters of the workforce presently employed at the Hammerite factory in Prudhoe intend to transfer to AkzoNobel’s multi-million pound new factory in Ashington.

And the Dutch company will lay on transport to get them there, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

AkzoNobel project director Andy Jackson unveiled the future for the Prudhoe workforce at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s west area committee at the Fuse Media Centre in Prudhoe.

He said the company was investing £100m in the three-and-a-half year project to create its main British paint manufacturing base in the North-East.

He said: “It will treble our production capacity while halving our environmental impact.”

He said the Prudhoe factory would close in 2014, but the present 90-strong workforce had all been consulted about what the future could hold.

He said: “The figures say that 50-75 per cent will move to the new site, 5-10 per cent wish to retire, and others want to move to other jobs within the AkzoNobel organisation.

“We are delighted that the overwhelming majority of people want to stay with us in some capacity.

“They will all be trained in the new skills required for the high tech facilities at the new plant and transport arrangements will be made to get them to the new factory.”

Mr Jackson acknowledged that it would be a wrench for many people to leave the Tyne Valley, where the Hammerite brand had been invented and manufactured.

However, he made it plain it had been completely impractical for the company to develop on the existing site.

He said: “The present site is on a steep slope and covers about three hectares.

“Our plans for the new facility cover 10 hectares, and to do that at Prudhoe would not only wipe out a considerable amount of residential property in the area, it would also mean that half the new factory would have to be on stilts.

“The site is undevelopable for our needs.”

He said that when the time came to leave Prudhoe, the present factory would be decommissioned, and cleaned up to satisfy all health and safety and environmental considerations.

He said: “We have no plans for future use of the site, which will be sold off for redevelopment.

“It will be kept safe and secure and the grounds maintained to a good standard, until such time as it is sold.”

Coun. Bill Garrett, of Prudhoe , said the decision to move away from Prudhoe had been a great disappointment to the town, but Prudhoe was proud to be associated with Hammerite, a product which was known nationally and internationally.

Coun. Derek Kennedy, of Hexham, said it was a glass half full situation, as AkzoNobel had chosen to remain in Northumberland, rather than moving elsewhere in Britain, or even abroad.

He said: “It’s very unfortunate for Prudhoe, but it’s great that the new factory will still be in Northumberland, which is still suffering from the potential loss of jobs at the Alcan plant at Lynemouth.

“We will be left with an empty site at Prudhoe and I would like to see another industrial use for it, rather than any other development.”

Coun. Richard Dodd, of Ponteland, said while he was delighted AkzoNobel had chosen to stay in Northumberland, he hoped this was not a precursor to other businesses in the rural west moving to south-east Northumberland.

He said: “I would hate Tynedale to be reduced to little more than a dormitory for the south-east.”

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