UPDATE: Cromer crab factory closure described as ‘bitter blow’ by campaigners
Campaigners who battled to save Cromer's threatened crab factory have been left reeling after bosses confirmed it would shut this summer with the loss of 109 jobs.
The decision by parent company Young's Seafood comes after an eight-month consultation on a review of its shellfish operations.
This afternoon the workforce was briefed at the site on Holt Road and told that - apart from Cromer crab, which would continue to be processed locally - the 'volume' from the site would be 'transferred and consolidated' into Young's factories in Grimsby.
The phased transfer of workload would phased closure at Cromer between June and August.
Community leaders have been left 'deeply disappointed' by the news and have described the closure as a 'bitter blow' for Cromer.
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North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the announcement was 'tragic news' for the remaining 109 staff who had been 'living under a cloud' during the eight-month consultation.
He added: 'We have got to make certain that those individuals have assistance and support in finding other employment. I will do anything I can to assist and support people but there's no escaping the fact this is very bad news.'
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Greg Hayman, Cromer mayor, said his heart went out to staff and thought the announcement was 'particularly sad' as it came just days after the annual crab and lobster festival, which celebrates the importance of the town's crabbing industry.
Denise Burke, chairman of North Norfolk Labour Party, added: 'The closure of such a significant business in Cromer is very sad news and the consequences of this decision will be felt throughout the community.
'We are disappointed Young's could not have reached a more favourable outcome.'
North Norfolk District Council also expressed its 'extreme disappointment' but pledged to help those facing redundancy.
Tom FitzPatrick, cabinet member for business and economic development, added: 'This is a bitter blow to Cromer. The committed and dedicated team at Cromer Crab have worked with Young's Seafood to try and find a solution which would keep this facility open.'
Young's explained the move in a statement which said it was the 'most financially viable and sustainable option, for shellfish processing, for the long-term.'
The firm said it had considered 'short-term and long-term costs, financial sustainability, quality and technical requirements, and the manufacturing capabilities of the site.'
Chief operating officer Pete Ward added: 'We have looked long and hard at this and I'd like to stress that this move does not, in any way, reflect on the committed and experienced team in Cromer.
'Their passion and pride in Cromer crab is commendable and the work they do has always been outstanding.
'Shellfish processing remains important to our company, as we consolidate shellfish processing in Grimsby. Our priority is to continue to fulfil customer contracts, alongside ensuring that the employees affected by this announcement get the support they need by working closely with them, local agencies and other key stakeholders.'
Young's said it remained committed to buying from local fishermen, while keeping Cromer crab processing local.
Mr Ward added: 'We are today confirming that we will ensure that the Cromer Crab brand stays in its rightful home in Cromer, by working with local stakeholders on how we can give the Cromer community the right to use this brand name into the future.'
The Cromer Crab Company, which is now part of Young's Seafood Limited, was opened in 1980 and processes prawns, crab, lobster and other shellfish for the UK retailers' own-label, chilled product ranges.
The 90-day minimum consultation over the factory's future began in September but was extended. The closure plan prompted campaigns by the local Labour Party, the North Norfolk News and saw intervention by local MP Norman Lamb.
The wider review also sees fish and seafood processing switched to Grimsby from the former Cumbrian Seafoods sites at Seaham and Whitehaven, which will also be closed. The Grimsby expansion will however lead to another 321 jobs.