Vanners' owner tries to buy Sudbury factory site
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Workers at the historic Vanners silk factory in Sudbury have been assured their jobs are safe even though their workplace has been put up for sale.
Company owner Roger Gawn has told them that the sale offer is "administrative" and it is "business as usual" as production continues - and he is hoping to buy the freehold of the factory.
The company has had a difficult 12 months - last autumn it went into administration because of a dramatic fall in orders because of the pandemic and the closure of many of the upmarket retailers that sold its products across the world.
About half the staff lost their jobs before Mr Gawn took it over on Christmas Eve. By the time of that deal the factory had been sold to developers because there had been plans to relocate Vanners to a new site.
After the takeover the surviving staff were then not paid for several months because there were delays to furlough payments because of the takeover, and production was suspended, which prompted an intervention by South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge.
Eventually production did restart and is continuing - and now Mr Gawn is hoping to buy back the premises.
He said: "The previous owners of Vanners had planned to move to a modern factory unit and sell the current site for housing - but after talking to the local planners it is clear they share my view that this should be kept for industrial use, to keep business near the town centre.
"The business is now doing well. It is debt-free and I hope to be able to buy the factory if it is clear that redevelopment would not be allowed by the planners.
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"Covid has been very bad for the business, but as we are a smaller company now things are improving and looking good for the future. Things are looking better than they were."
Mr Cartlidge is remaining in touch with staff and managers at Vanners. He said: "After the truly testing experience faced by many Vanners staff and ex-staff since the takeover, we must hope that whatever happens to the site in the long term is in the best interests of Sudbury’s future prosperity."