THE future of a troubled Amble food factory has once again been thrown into doubt – after it was put up for sale.
The Longbenton Foods factory at Coquet Enterprise Park, along with machinery from the site, has gone up for auction.
It is advertised online at Sweeney Kincaid Industrial Auctioneering and is listed as a ‘major sale by tender of exceptionally modern root vegetable processing plant and equipment (potato and parsnip), and associated equipment’.
Prospective buyers are told that ‘premium offers will be considered at any point in time for the plant as a whole’ and adds that offers are also sought for the property located at the site, either separately from plant offers or together as a whole.
No sale was able to be concluded before today, due to an existing contract being in place.
It is the latest saga in the Longbenton Foods story since the company took over the factory in October last year and MP Sir Alan Beith has described the online sale as ‘another worrying development’.
The Gazette has repeatedly tried to speak to someone in the management team at Longbenton Foods but was told they were either ‘at dinner’ or out of the office.
A spokeswoman speaking on behalf of administrators Begbies Traynor said they could not make any comment at the moment.
The factory had failed previously under the ownership of Northumberland Foods and Cheviot Foods, while Longbenton Foods’ reign has been troubled by factory closures and issues regarding staff payment.
The Gazette understands that the site has been shut since before Christmas and staff have still not returned to work.
Sir Alan said: “This (the online sale) appears to be action by the administrator of Northumberland Foods because of continuing unresolved payment issues with Longbenton Foods but it is another worrying development, because what local people want is to have the business in the hands of someone willing and able to run it as a going concern and give it the future the workforce deserves. All along, I have been pressing the administrator to give special attention to the need to keep the factory in business. There were hopes Longbenton Foods would do this, but that depends on them sorting out the financial issues.”
More than 220 lots are being offered from the site and bidding closes at noon on Wednesday, February 23.
One source, who did not want to be named, said: “The factory has been closed since before Christmas. It’s an absolute joke but not a laughing matter for people who have kids and mortgages. Longbenton Foods were contacting people via text and saying they would let them know when to come back into work, but up to now no one has received a text.”
Coun Robert Arckless, town and county councillor for Amble, said he was disappointed to hear the latest developments, saying he felt sympathy for the staff who have been put in an ‘impossible situation’.
He added: “I still hope that it might be possible to continue manufacturing there. I hope that it continues in some form.”
Amble Town Council chairman Leslie Bilboe told of his frustration, saying: “I am extremely disappointed and I really feel for the staff, they have been treated so badly.”