Tiptree jam maker Wilkin & Sons set to drop plans for new factory

Tiptree jam maker Wilkin & Sons is reconsidering its plans for a new factory.

Tiptree jam maker Wilkin & Sons is reconsidering its plans for a new factory. - Credit: Archant

A major new factory planned by Tiptree jam maker Wilkin & Sons is now unlikely to go ahead, it has emerged.

The Essex company, which also has factories in Witham and Saffron Walden and a distribution centre in Earls Colne, had planned to bring all its operations together on a single site in Tiptree.

Besides a new 13,000 sq m factory, the £25million scheme – which secured planning consent in April 2013 – would have involved 244 new homes, 4.5hectares of open space, allotments and cycle paths.

However, rapid growth across the company’s businesses since the plans were drawn up means that the first part of the proposed two-phase factory development would no longer be large enough to accommodate the entire operation.

The company says it has considered building the entire factory in a single phase, but is reluctant to take on the “significantly higher” level of borrowing this would involve.

Its decision to abandon the plans has now been confirmed.

A further factor is that, at current rates of growth, the planned unit would reach full capacity well before the projected date of 2030.

Ian Thurgood, joint manager director, said: “In 2010 when we started this major project, the plan was to bring all our businesses together here in Tiptree. Since then, they have all grown significantly.”

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Mr Thurgood said a final decision on the way forward was expected to be made in the next week or so. If the proposed new factory did not go ahead, the current operations of jam making and fruit growing would continue in Tiptree, with the company looking to invest in improving its existing factory.

The Tiptree Patisserie factory in Witham and the distribution centre in Earls Colne both had space to accommodate further growth, although the Cole’s Puddings factory in Saffron Walden was close to capacity, he addded.

The new homes planned were conditional on the new factory being built and so will not go ahead either if the scheme is dropped.

However, road improvements already in progress in anticipation of the new factory will be completed.

Chris Newenham, farm director at Wilkin & Sons, said: “If, after such overwhelming support, we decide not to go ahead with the new factory, it will be a huge disappointment, especially to those who have worked so hard and for so long on the detail.

“On the positive side, our company will be in a very strong financial position with increasing sales and great prospects for the future. We remain grateful for the support of the village, our workforce, the planners, our bankers and advisors.”