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Confirmed: Britvic will close its Norwich factory

PUBLISHED: 16:57 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:23 16 December 2017

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Britvic has confirmed the closure of its Norwich factory, leading to the loss of more than 230 jobs in the city.

The closure, first proposed in early October, also raises further questions over the future of the Colman’s Mustard factory operated by Unilever at the same Carrow Works site.

Britvic has not made any senior manager available for interview but a spokesman said staff had been informed of the decision on Friday.

In a statement, chief executive Simon Litherland said: “This was not a proposal that we made lightly and we understand that the outcome of the collective consultation process will be upsetting for our colleagues in Norwich.

“It is a sad and difficult time. I want to thank everyone at Norwich, past and present, for their dedication, hard work and commitment, and I would like to say again that this decision is in no way a reflection of their performance.

“However, transferring production of Robinsons and Fruit Shoot to our other GB manufacturing sites – coupled with our investment in the wider GB supply chain - will deliver significant productivity and efficiency savings in our manufacturing operations.

“It will also deliver environmental benefits and ensure that we have the flexibility and capability we need to respond to changing consumer trends faster and more efficiently.”

When it first announced the plans in October, Britvic said it needed to make the changes to deliver efficiencies in the business.

More than 240 jobs were put at risk, though the company said that it would look to redeploy staff where possible. However, with the sites taking on production located in Rugby, Leeds and London, unions representing the workforce said that idea would be unsuitable for many workers.

A spokesman said that 249 workers were currently employed at the site, though 13 of them were on fixed-term contracts which would have expired by its scheduled closure date in 2019. She would not be drawn on whether the remaining 236 workers would continue at the site until its closure, or whether it would be wound down over time.

Britvic shares the site on Bracondale with consumer goods giant Unilever, which makes Colman’s mustard and mint sauces at its factory. It has been reviewing its future at the site after Britvic indicated it could withdraw.

More than 11,000 people signed a petition organised by this newspaper calling for Britvic and Colman’s to stay put and preserve a thriving part of the city’s manufacturing past and present.

New Anglia LEP has been working with Unilever to examine its options, which include staying on the Carrow site, or moving to either the new food enterprise zone at Honingham Thorpe or a site on the Norwich Airport industrial estate.

READ MORE: ‘A real kick in the teeth to the city of Norwich’ - MPs react to Britvic factory closure

Norwich’s MPs have reacted with sympathy for workers affected.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith: “It is very difficult news, although it may not have been entirely unexpected. Nobody likes bad news at any time of the year, but to hear this now just before Christmas will make it worse for employees.”

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: “I’m gutted for the workforce. I think they will have felt that Britvic went into this process knowing full well which way it was going with this.

“It’s a real body blow for staff who have worked so hard and they have every right to feel hard done by.”

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