Town faces double dose of bad news

A CRUEL double blow could be dealt to Amble, after it emerged that a planned supermarket development has been thrown into doubt while staff at a troubled food factory face fresh fears over their future.

The Tesco store, which was due to be built in the town this year and bring 150 much-needed jobs, has been placed under review, after the company endured a bleak Christmas period.

And information which has been leaked to the Gazette has shown that Young’s Seafood Limited is considering moving the production of fish cakes from Coquet Enterprise Park-based Border Laird to a site in Grimsby, following ‘serious product quality issues’, which could result in ‘some temporary lay-offs’.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment but did say that some staff had been disciplined at the Amble site, leading to dismissal in some cases.

Earlier this month, it was announced that up to 80 jobs could be lost at the site after a formal consultation period opened.

A spokeswoman for Young’s Seafood said: “Following a number of suspensions at the Border Laird, Amble site, disciplinary action has been taken up to and including dismissal. The site is part of Cumbrian Seafoods, which went into administration on December 5. Lion Capital has since acquired the customer contracts and equipment from Cumbrian Seafoods.

“Executives from Lion Capital’s existing fish and seafood business, Young’s Seafood Limited, have spent time at the site and will continue to look at the operations and processes in detail.”

But a memo, which was leaked to the Gazette, states that there could be lay-offs over the quality concerns.

It says that management from Young’s and Ocean Pure have been drafted in to oversee operations, but adds: “This isn’t a sustainable situation and so, in consultation with customers, we are looking at alternative options for the production of fish cakes.

“The lead option here would be to move the products to Grimsby where we have fishcake core processing capability in place and a site that is already customer approved in terms of technical compliance.”

It adds: “If fishcake volume is moved to another facility for a period of time at some point, this, however, could result in a drop-off in our labour requirements in which case we may have to consider some temporary lay-offs. In any eventuality formal consultation will continue as normal with regards to the long-term future for the site.

“Our focus remains on customers – on fulfilling their contracts with the right quality and spec of product – and consulting with our employees on possible long term options for the future.”

While any loss of jobs at Border Lairds will have a significant impact on the town, it was hoped that the new Tesco store planned north of Queen Street, adjacent to the Braid, would provide new employment opportunities.

But Doug Wilson, corporate affairs manager for Tesco, admitted that the future of the store is being discussed.

“It all stems from Tesco’s Christmas trading statement and we are currently reviewing some of our schemes, which includes the new site in Amble,” he said. “No decision has been made yet but as soon as a decision is made we will make an announcement.

“It is a decision that is taken collectively and it is something that we are looking at at the moment.”

He added: “The land in Amble has been purchased which does complicate matters further.”

The supermarket scheme, a joint venture between Tesco and development partner Northumberland Estates, was given the go-ahead by Northumberland County Council’s north area planning committee in March last year.