Britvic denies link between proposed Norwich factory closure and CEO’s position with house building firm

PUBLISHED: 13:47 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:30 09 November 2017

Britvic has denied any link between the proposed closure of its Norwich factory and its chief executive’s appointment as non-executive director of Persimmon Homes.

It comes as Norwich South MP Clive Lewis and the trade Union GMB expressed concern over a potential conflict of interest created by the move.

Simon Litherland, Britvic’s chief executive, was appointed to the UK house building firm’s board of directors on April 3 this year.

The company has since announced proposals to close its site on Bracondale and move the production of Robinsons squash elsewhere in the UK.

Britvic said Mr Litherland’s position with Persimmon had not influenced its proposal.

But Labour MP Mr Lewis said: “As housing land is scarce in Norwich, this sets off alarm bells about how someone who is responsible for a decision to possibly close a manufacturing site could at the same time be the beneficiary of future housing development in the same location, should the Britvic factory close.”

Meanwhile, Ivan Mercer, regional organiser for GMB, said: “The link concern is that if residential planning permission is granted [in the future], and Persimmon was the developer, there is a clear conflict of interest.

“This has a clear impact on the Norwich sites’ future.”

Following Britvic’s announcement in October, Unilever warned its neighbouring Colman’s Mustard plant could also shut.

Should the closures go ahead, hundreds of jobs will be lost.

The Bracondale site - shared by both factories - backs onto the River Wensum and is sandwiched between two proposed housing developments.

Britvic said there had been no discussion between the company and Persimmon homes about future uses of the factory site.

A spokesman said: “Britvic’s board discussed and approved Simon’s appointment as a non-executive director on Persimmon Homes’ board prior to it being announced.

“As a reminder, the proposal to close the site towards the end of 2019 was approved by Britvic’s board for consultation with impacted employees, subject to full and proper consultation.”

A spokesman for Persimmon said: “Simon Litherland is a non-executive director and has no involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business.”

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