Construction firm Kier confirms 160 jobs to leave Trowse in site closure

Kier took over May Gurney and its headquarters near Trowse in 2013. Photo: ARCHANT.

Kier took over May Gurney and its headquarters near Trowse in 2013. Photo: ARCHANT.

The futures of 160 staff at construction firm Kier – formerly May Gurney – have been thrown into doubt after the company confirmed it would be closing its site at Trowse near Norwich.

The Kier offices on The Street in Trowse. Photo: Steve Adams

The Kier offices on The Street in Trowse. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Kier Group said it was leaving because the extended lease on its site on The Street would come to an end in September 2017.

Some staff would be relocated to other Norfolk offices, said Kier, while others face relocation to either Bedfordshire or Manchester.

A consultation period is under way, but Kier has not yet confirmed how many staff will be relocated to its local offices – Mason Road in Mile Cross, and Wymondham – nor how many will have to move to the offices further afield to keep their jobs.

However, one employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was likely that more than 100 staff would see their jobs move out of Norfolk.


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'From day one, Kier has said that it wanted to maintain a presence in Norwich,' said the employee.

'There's a lot of anger at how Kier have been vague on what information they give out, and they have been treating the workforce in the same way for many months. We've been asking about the Trowse move because we've been expecting it to happen.

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'We were told senior management were looking at other sites [around Norwich]. Now it looks like they were just paying lip service to that, and we've been told there has been a strategy change.

'It's affected quite a lot of people in a negative way. It has hit some people very hard.'

Kier Group bought May Gurney in 2013 in a £221m deal, outbidding its rival Costain for the company.

A spokesman for Kier said: 'The landlord of our Trowse office has plans to re-develop the site so our extended lease ends in September 2017.

'Kier has been discussing this change with all colleagues that are affected. Kier has other local offices in the Norwich area which some colleagues will relocate to.

'For other colleagues there are proposals to relocate to existing Kier offices in Bedfordshire and Manchester.'

History

There was a time when it would have been hard for someone living in Norfolk to get through a day without coming across May Gurney's work.

The roads that criss-cross the county, the bridges that span the rivers and the buildings where thousands work – all were among the services the famous name provided.

As recently as 2013, May Gurney employed some 800 people at its Trowse headquarters.

But the company's roots stretch back more than a century, to the arrival of Roland James May in Norfolk from Lancashire.

He arrived in the aftermath of the great floods of 1912, and set about repairing 30 bridges swept away by the waters.

He built his reputation, becoming Norfolk's deputy county surveyor in 1923, before resigning to found RJ May Contractors in Trowse. Three years later he formed a partnership with Christopher Richard Gurney, and May, Gurney and Co was born.

It grew quickly, aided by large surface-dressing contracts needed to get the county's roads ready for widespread car use, then the widespread repairs needed after war-time bombing raids.

The company grew and diversified over the following decades, acquiring other smaller companies and winning contracts at home and abroad, including building a township in Indonesia, and projects in Libya and Egypt.

In 2013, it was involved in a bidding war between larger rivals. May Gurney initially announced it would merge with Costain, before plumping for a higher offer from Kier Group.

The £221m deal was completed in July, when May Gurney's 6,000 employees began being integrated into Kier's 10,000-strong team.

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