Supermarkets join fight to save Cromer’s iconic crab factory

Supermarket chains have stepped in to help save Cromer's iconic crab factory from possible closure, as the battle to keep the well known site in town begins.

National brands supplied by the Cromer Crab Company have contacted the site's owners Young's Seafood Limited offering their support, after yesterday's shock announcement the factory could fold next year axing 230 jobs.

But community leaders, including north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, have pledged to try and save the important site, believed to be the second largest employer in the town.

Mr Lamb met with Pete Ward, Young's chief operating officer, this afternoon and said he was 'absolutely reassured' the company had not already made up its mind and was just 'going through the motions' of opening a 90 day consultation with staff.

'They're very keen to stress this is not a fait accompli, that they're genuinely keen to look at ways of keeping the factory open. He (Mr Ward) says that he's had an enormous number of people coming forward with suggestions about how things could work differently,' Mr Lamb said.

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'Interestingly and very encouragingly they have had pressure from customers; supermarkets saying 'is there a way we can help keep this open?'

'Both from customers and the workforce there is an expression of willingness to assist in trying to keep the place open, which is very, very positive.'

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The Holt Road factory, which supplies supermarkets including Marks & Spencer and Tesco, has been in the town for more than 30 years and also works closely with the north Norfolk fishing community - a partnership factory bosses say would continue 'regardless' of what happens to the site.

Young's has said a 20pc rise in the cost of prawns, aggressive competition and over supply in the industry has led to the suggestion of possible closure, but it would work to try and find an alternative solution.

Mr Lamb said the company was also prepared to invest further in the site if a business model comes forward 'that will work'.

He added: 'It would be wrong to be optimistic, I can't say I'm hopeful that we can retain this but clearly there's a fight that's worth having and I want to do everything I can to help in securing those jobs.'

Trade union Unite has also joined the fight and representatives were due to meet Young's today to urge managers to keep the business in the town, which they say it has an 'obligation' to.

And Greg Hayman, Cromer mayor, is helping to spearhead a campaign launched by the North Norfolk Labour party.

He will be in the town on Saturday asking people to sign a petition pledging their support for the factory and said he will be asking Young's to 'look again'.

'They have made a �2m investment (at the factory) in the last two years, clearly they have had faith in the company and been a good employer and friend of the town, and we wouldn't want to lose that,' he added.

Mr Lamb is now hoping to join factory bosses next week when they meet with north Norfolk fishermen and the staff who will be elected as representatives throughout the consultation.

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