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Dozens of jobs at risk as chemical giant announces possible closure of Norfolk factory

PUBLISHED: 15:37 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 18:10 04 September 2018

The Dow Chemical factory in King's Lynn  Picture: Chris Bishop

The Dow Chemical factory in King's Lynn Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

Dozens of jobs are at risk as a chemical manufacturer announces a possible closure of its site in a West Norfolk town.

The Dow Chemical factory in King's Lynn  Picture: Chris BishopThe Dow Chemical factory in King's Lynn Picture: Chris Bishop

DowDuPont has announced today that it intends to discontinue operations at its Dow Chemical site in King’s Lynn by the end of August 2019, subject to consultations.

An employee consultation process has already begun for the 65 people employed at the site.

A company spokesman said the decision was made in order to “drive sustainable growth over the long term” and to “address duplicative sites and facilities and to relocate certain capabilities.”

They added: “In the coming weeks, the company is committed to working with all the employees through consultation to ensure everyone gets full support throughout the process.

The Dow Chemical factory in king's Lynn  Picture: Chris BishopThe Dow Chemical factory in king's Lynn Picture: Chris Bishop

“Where possible, the company will offer redeployment opportunities.”

The factory, which has been in the town for 61 years, produces agricultural chemicals.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham described the decision as a “bitter blow for the employees and their families.”

He said he has spoken to the site manager, Julian Beresford-Peirse, who has confirmed that the Styrofoam division in Lynn has been sold to a European company called Ravago, adding this has not been affected by Dow’s decision and will continue to operate.

He has asked for an urgent meeting with DowDuPont’s agri-business country manager, Adrian Goff, to look at possible actions.

He added: “First of all, they must look at selling the business as a going concern, as well as starting urgent talks with Ravago to see if they can move some of their operations to the site next to the Styrofoam division, and indeed expand.

“I will also be seeking assurances that all of the affected staff will be offered jobs across the DowDuPont business.

“I would like to pay tribute to the hard working staff of the business which have given so much to both Dows and King’s Lynn.

“Of course I am very hopeful that most if not all of the former employees will have a positive future; I am also confident that this exceptional site will provide excellent job opportunities in the future.”

West Norfolk council leader Brian Long said the decision was “a tremendous shame” after the factory’s long association with the town.

He added: “We’re disappointed to hear about potential job losses and we do hope that they can explore retaining staff in other departments. The borough council will do all we can to help any affected staff find alternative employment, as we have done in similar situations previously.”

Michael Baldwin, president of West Norfolk Chamber Council, said: “It is disappointing to hear about potential job losses at Dow and we do hope that that the company will explore all avenues to retain staff wherever possible.

“Despite this potential decision, there remains a thriving and innovative business community in West Norfolk and it is more important than ever to work together to grow the economy and support local people.”

Jo Rust, secretary of the King’s Lynn and District Trades Council, said: “Dow Chemical has been in the town, providing high quality employment, for over 60 years.

“Although there are currently 65 people affected, the site previously employed over 300, so disappointingly, it’s evident that the business has been scaling down in our area for some time.

“This is a bitter blow to those who have loyally served the organisation and the local businesses who have links with the site.

“It will have a detrimental impact on our local economy and jobs.

“More needs to be done to try to find sustainable solutions to retain this business in King’s Lynn and I hope our MP will be pulling out all the stops. “King’s Lynn and District Trades Council will make itself available for any talks or negotiations if helpful.”

Dow Chemical was originally formed in Midland, Michigan, US, in 1897. One of its founder’s ancestors was said to have come from Norfolk.

In 1967, it moved to King’s Lynn’s Estuary Road as the town’s food and agribusiness sectors underwent major expansion.

In June 1976, an explosion at the plant killed a worker and caused extensive damage.

It was caused when a chemical used in poultry feed exploded in a drying vessel.

Some 300 people were employed by Dow in Lynn at the time but just 19 were on site when the accident occurred.

In 1997, Dow spent a reported £4m on refurbishing a latex plant on its site.

By 2002, when the company closed a laboratory at Lynn with the loss of 20 jobs, it employed 150. In 2008, some 30 roles were made redundant when the latex plant closed on the site closed.

Four years ago, the firm installed solar panels to provide renewable energy.

Have you been affected? Contact Taz Ali on 01553 778680 or email taz.ali@archant.co.uk.

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