Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Friday, November 9, 2012
A public consultation has been held into plans to move a Norfolk town’s largest employer away from its town centre site to safeguard the poultry processing business against competition.
Representatives from Banham Poultry met over 100 Attleborough residents at the town’s Connaught Hall on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss plans to move the processing side of the company, which has 650 staff, from the site of the former Gaymers cider factory in Station Road back to the firm’s old home at Bunns Bank industrial park, a mile out of town.
The 12.5 acre Station Road site could then be sold for redevelopment to provide a new 30,000sq ft supermarket, shops and a doctors surgery creating 300 new jobs and helping to fund Banham Poultry’s return to Bunns Bank.
Bob Delafield, a development consultant working for Banham Poultry, said the business faced losing ground to more technologically advanced competitors in the poultry processing industry, such as VION food group and 2 Sisters foods, unless a site for a bigger premises could be found to accommodate larger machinery.
Increases in feed prices and pressure from supermarkets to improve product quality have also made the move a necessity.
Mr Delafield said the Station Road plant could not be extended because the site had homes nearby, which were being affected by noise and smells, while Bunns Bank was in a more rural location.
“What is crucial is trying to hang onto Banham Poultry as a major employer because the poultry business is pretty cut throat and you are only as good as your last contract. What is important is the quality of your produce and you can only do that with a good facility,” Mr Delafield.
However, visitor John Aldous, of Foundry Corner, Attleborough raised concerns about increased traffic from lorries visiting the Bunns Bank site along Buckenham Road.
He said he wanted a link road between Bunns Bank and the nearby A11 created before the move so traffic would not have to travel through the town to Bunns Bank, preventing an increase on Buckenham Road.
Mr Delafield said all lorries for the Bunns Bank site were already travelling through town to get to Station Road, so there would be no increase in traffic from the move.
He said a transport assessment would be carried out on the Station Road site before the sale of the land, adding food store traffic levels were generally fairly constant throughout the day.
The company moved to Station Road after fire destroyed the premises at Bunns Bank in 1999. Since then, the Bunns Bank site has been used mainly as a storage facility.
Live poultry is sent to the Station Road site from the firm’s farms in East Anglia and is then processed and packaged ready for sale.
The company is set to submit a planning application in January for a change of use for the Attleborough town centre site and will also put in a detailed planning application for the new factory at Bunns Bank.