Turkey factory's final shutdown

Workers at what was the third largest turkey producer in the country were sent home for the last time yesterday. The closure of Cherryridge Poultry at Northrepps, near Cromer, was a sad day not only for the 75 factory workers after the peak production of Christmas turkeys, but also the wider community.

Workers at what was the third largest turkey producer in the country were sent home for the last time yesterday.

The closure of Cherryridge Poultry at Northrepps, near Cromer, was a sad day not only for the 75 factory workers after the peak production of Christmas turkeys, but also the wider community.

For many, their final visit to Cherryridge was to pick up their traditional complimentary Christmas turkey - and then over the road to the pub for a farewell drink.

Many workers were locals, with some families having a number of members at the business and others who had worked at the factory for many years.

None more so than Neil Roper who put his first work in at the factory, helping load turkeys into customer's cars, when he was six, going on the help in production when he was a teenager and finally working full-time after going to university.

His father John, who set up the family business with wife Bridget in the 1950s, oversaw the culling of all the farm's turkeys in the run up to the closure.

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Neil Roper said: “It is a way of life for us. It has changed over the years as all these things do.

“There are people whose mothers and fathers and sons work here. One of the people here I can recall growing up with in the village.

“But everyone has been very supportive.”

Last year staff levels rose to 320, in the run up to Christmas, but avian flu, rising manufacturing costs and cheap import meats had put too much pressure on the business, Mr Roper said.

“When you are piggy in the middle getting pressure from all sides it is just a cumulative effect.”

Some staff have found jobs, but there had been a feeling of disappointment with the job centre, said Mr Roper. He said that staff had felt the authorities had been more keen on getting people signed on than finding them jobs.

Final paper work and clearing the site will be done early next year. Machinery and equipment will be sold off and discussions begun with North Norfolk District Council over the future of the site.

Housing is pinned as the most likely option, although the family would have liked it to remain a farm, but that was unlikely.

A reprieve for the specialist rearing side of the business, run by Mr Roper's brother Guy and which includes about a dozen, jobs is still hanging in the balance.

Bernard Matthews had offered take out a contract for organic birds, but the deal has not yet been finalised.

Mr Roper said he had not had a chance to think about what he would do after the closure and said his parents would retire.