Calls to end 'silence' over future of major industrial site
PUBLISHED: 12:48 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:49 30 April 2019
An urgent meeting is needed over the future of a key industrial site following a five-month "silence" from a taskforce set up to look for a new buyer, a councillor has said.
Jack Owen, Labour county councillor, says it is vital that a long-term plan is put in place for the Delphi Diesel Systems plant in Newton Road.
Delphi announced in August 2017 that it would scaling down operations before leaving the site in 2020, with the loss of around 500 jobs.
The South Suffolk Taskforce, chaired by MP for South Suffolk James Cartlidge, was set up in the wake of the closure announcement to support staff at the site and look at the local economy as a whole.
Responding to criticism, Mr Cartlidge revealed another bidder “is at the most advanced stage of negotiations” to buy the site.
MORE: British company makes 'significant bid' for major Suffolk industrial site, MP reveals
In a letter to Mr Cartlidge, Mr Owen, a former Delphi employee, said: “On December 6, 2018 it was announced, by yourself, that there had been a much welcome bid by a Chinese company looking to develop electric sports cars, but that bid had to be accepted by December 17, 2018 or else it would be withdrawn.
“And since then, almost five months later, there has been silence from the South Suffolk Taskforce. No update from yourself on the bid, no reports in the news, no contact with the unions, nothing.
“It is vital for the future of Sudbury that a long-term plan is put in place with involves the whole community, not just a behind closed doors group working in secrecy.”
MORE: Hundreds of jobs to go as Philips Avent plant in Glemsford to close
Mr Owen added that he believes the lack of news about Delphi is leading to a loss of investment in Sudbury.
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“With the increased housing being built across Sudbury and the surrounding area I have a very grave concern about where these people will be working and the lack of news about the future of the Delphi site is leading to a loss of confidence and investment across the whole town,” he said.
“Further, given the news that Philips Avent and Prologue have both decided to move their operations elsewhere the work of the taskforce has never been more important.”
Mr Owen called for a meeting with the South Suffolk Taskforce, Delphi, the unions and local politicians “as a matter of urgency” to idenfity ways forward.
He also highlighted that an options appraisal document for the site had not been published.
Mr Cartlidge responded by correcting Mr Owen over the inaccuracy regarding the December 6 bid, and revealed that another bidder is at the most advanced stage of negotiations.
MORE: More than 330 jobs at Prolog are saved in last-minute reprieve
In his response, Mr Cartlidge said: “You refer to the news I shared with the local press on December 6 that there was credible interest in the site. “For clarification, this was not from a Chinese company but from a UK-based consortium of entrepreneurs who were planning to purchase the site to make it a hub for Chinese manufacturers.
“Unfortunately, the deadline passed without agreement between this party and Delphi and the sports car project was commenced in Spain.
“The 'hub' investors have not given up their interest in Delphi, and are still interested in proceeding and while they have commenced work on the sports car prototype in Spain, could still commit to the assembly of this and other products at the site.
“However, at present it appears that another bidder is at the most advanced stage of negotiations to purchase the site. I am not aware of the identity of the bidder and Delphi are not required to share this information.
“Delphi are insistent that this bidder would purchase with the same planning permission, i.e industrial use, suggesting a positive development. But I must emphasise, I have no precise detail.”
Mr Cartlidge added that the “regrettable closure” of Philips Avent in Glemsford had impacted on the timings of recommendations, which he hopes will be published later this year.