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Fire-hit company look for temporary site

PUBLISHED: 13:30 23 July 2010 | UPDATED: 21:58 01 August 2010

EMPLOYEES at the Lowestoft food factory gutted by fire are waiting to hear if the company will relocate to new temporary premises in the area.

A fierce blaze destroyed the Wessex Foods factory in Haddenham Road on the South Lowestoft Industrial Estate during the evening of Sunday, July 11.

EMPLOYEES at the Lowestoft food factory gutted by fire are waiting to hear if the company will relocate to new temporary premises in the area.

A fierce blaze destroyed the Wessex Foods factory in Haddenham Road on the South Lowestoft Industrial Estate during the evening of Sunday, July 11.

Up to 100 firefighters fought the blaze which was one of the largest in Suffolk for many years.

Large plumes of smoke billowed into the air and could be seen for miles around.

The past two weeks have been a worrying time for staff who are concerned about the factory's future.

The plant employs about 130 people, who are all currently off work on basic pay, and during the past few days demolition of the site has started.

Irish-based Wessex Foods is one of the biggest burger producers in the UK and, following the blaze, orders were taken on by other factories within the group.

But during the past week the company has raised the hopes of local workers by beginning a search for suitable premises in the Lowestoft area - though without success so far.

Alistair MacDougall, public affairs consultant for Wessex, said yesterday that although he could not say where the potential temporary site could be, it would involve the local workforce.

“The utilisation of sister sites within the group was only a short-term measure,” said Mr MacDougall.

“We are looking at alternative sites that will involve the existing work force. We have told the staff that we will continue to be paying basic pay until further notice and we have given them a complete assurance that we will keep them informed of any changes.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he had been speaking regularly to Wessex Foods management and he was heartened by their efforts to find a temporary site in the area. But he added: “We can't afford to count our chickens. It's good that they are actively looking but there is still lots of work to be done.”

The blaze, which is likely to lead to an insurance claim of millions of pounds, is believed to have started in the “chiller” area of the factory, but Suffolk Fire Service is continuing its investigations into the cause.

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