Remembering the 10 biggest business stories of the year in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 12:01 27 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:14 27 December 2017
Archant Norfolk 2016
Here we relive some of the best-read and biggest business stories of 2017.
– The fate of the vacant BHS store on Norwich’s St Stephens Street was one of the most closely followed stories of the year. After rumours of a new tenant began circling in the spring, and a frenzy caused by construction workers spotted in the building, Primark announced it would be taking over the building while the extension to its existing store in Gentleman’s Walk is completed.
– An on-going saga which has equally caught the public imagination is the closure of soft drinks company Britvic’s Norwich factory – and the possible loss of Colman’s Mustard production in the city. While Britvic announced before Christmas that its Bracondale factory will close in 2019, taking more than 240 jobs with it, there is still hope that Colman’s maker Unilever – which currently shares the site with Britvic – could retain production facilities in the city, with three potential sites proposed.
– The demise of Norwich and Peterborough Building Society rocked communities around the region. Its owner, Yorkshire Building Society, announced in January that it was to scrub the brand from the high street. By December, 28 stores in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire had closed with the loss of 136 jobs. However, there was some relief as Nottingham Building Society agreed to step in and take over three N&P branches in Norfolk.
– Yorkshire Building Society wasn’t the only finance firm to shut branches in the region, with NatWest, Lloyds and Halifax also planning to shut doors in the coming months. It caused us to questions how much consumers – and the new ways in which we manage our money – have influenced the firms’ decisions.
– Further redundancies are threatened at furniture firm Multiyork, which has its headquarters in Thetford, after it went into administration in late November. But there was a reprieve for the company after sofa giant DFS agreed to buy assets and eight stores from the collapsed chain.
– Despite the seeming frequency of bad news in 2017 there were also successes for the Norfolk business community. One of the most notable was from Winbirri Vineyards in Surlingham, which became the first English vineyard to win a major international award for a still wine when its Bacchus 2015 was named world’s best single varietal white wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017.
– Norwich Airport was the centre of attention in July when it released its 30-year masterplan, which set ambitious targets to treble passenger numbers to 1.4 million and forge new worldwide links by 2045. The launch of new flights at the airport from 2018 – including new summer services from Flybe and Scottish airline Loganair and short breaks from charter operator Super Break – also attracted attention, but the excitement was tempered by last week’s announcement that Loganair flights from Norwich to Durham would be scrapped less than three months after launching.
– This summer also saw Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) get the green light for its new five-year plan. Almost 85% of companies voted in favour of the £5m blueprint, which aims to create city “gateways” in St Stephens Street and Prince of Wales Road and to continue the BID’s City Hosts scheme and the VisitNorwich app.
– To finish, we have some victories for consumers. Bovis Homes found itself in hot water after customers in Norfolk and further afield complained of problems with their new homes, from plumbing faults to holes in the walls. The housebuilder has set aside more than £10m for remedial works in a bid to fix its customers’ problems – and rebuild its reputation.
– Thousands of people also read our reports on the government’s lists of East of England employers who had been found to have not paid staff the minimum wage – although companies have raised concerns about how the list is compiled.