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Rescue deal to safeguard Britvic and Unilever jobs in Norwich not ruled out by council bosses

PUBLISHED: 14:13 05 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:48 05 October 2017

View of the Colman's and Britvic site with Kings Street/Bracondale juncation in the bottom left. Picture: Archant library

View of the Colman's and Britvic site with Kings Street/Bracondale juncation in the bottom left. Picture: Archant library

Archant

Council bosses have not ruled out a rescue deal to help save hundreds of jobs at two historic Norwich factories if their occupiers decide to pull out of the city.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Norfolk County Council have said all options are still on the table after Britvic and Colman’s Mustard maker Unilever announced they could leave their site on Bracondale.

And the county council’s leader Cliff Jordan has suggested that even if Britvic shuts down its Norwich operations, the authority could help keep production of the eponymous condiment in the city.

Mr Jordan said: “Norfolk County Council has other sites in and around the city that we can hopefully move them on to.

“If Britvic decide to go we do not want to lose Colman’s, so if we can stop it happening we will try. We will be willing to help as best we can.”

Keith Kiddie, chairman of the business and property committee at Norfolk County Council, said it was too early to comment on whether funding would be suitable for the Britvic and Unilever site. “Once we have a better understanding of the situation we will consider all avenues for support,” he said.

He added: “We will be working in partnership with the city council, New Anglia LEP and other partners to explore options and see if there is any way that the site can remain open for business. If this is not possible we will do everything we can to help support people affected and help them find alternative employment in the local area.”

It would not be the first time public sector organisations have lent support to private firms in Norfolk.

In May 2016 New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership offered a £2m research and development grant to Baxter Healthcare in Thetford, to install new manufacturing equipment, to stop it pulling out of the town – a move which could have cost 450 jobs.

LEP managing director Chris Starkie said all options remain open with Britvic and Unilever, which together employ 355 people in Norwich.

He said: “We will be making contact with both Britvic and Unilever as a matter of urgency, to explore all possible options for retaining production of these iconic brands within Norfolk and safeguarding existing jobs.

“In this, we will be working closely with our MPs and local authority partners.”

Trevor Lewis, South Norfolk councillor for Trowse, said there may be opportunities for the county or city councils to use the site to “expand their operations”.

“Another problem is that the road system in the area is pretty terrible. I wonder if there is some opportunity for the county council to assist by acquiring land there to improve the road layout at Bracondale and King Street. It is running at capacity most of the time and must be an impediment to further development.”

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