WORK has begun to create a £28m Thorn Lighting factory in County Durham, where 700 staff will work.
The 40,000sqm (more than 430,000sqft) factory is being built in Green Lane, Spennymoor, not far from the present Thorn site in Merrington Lane, which makes four million light fittings a year. It will be sold for housing.
The factory will secure Thorn’s presence for 21 years – a condition of planning permission. Work should transfer to the new factory in autumn next year.
Thorn Lighting, part of the Zumtobel Group of Austria, is developing a group-wide “Academy of Light” beside the new plant to develop products and staff.
Some £3m is being secured to develop lighting technologies, including organic and polymeric light-emitting diodes, in partnership with One NorthEast, the DTI and Durham University.
Thorn will leave the site it has occupied since 1952 in the company’s 80th year.
Zumtobel CEO Andreas Ludwig said: “This plant will make it possible for Zumtobel to manufacture on-site in the group’s largest single market with modern, efficient and flexible facilities.
“It represents our greatest operational challenge for the coming financial year, underlines our commitment to the UK and supports our strategy of retaining production as close to the customer as possible.”
County council leader Coun Albert Nugent said: “Thorn Lighting is a stalwart of the County Durham economy and I am delighted that we could play an important role in helping it develop its operations in the county.
“Today’s groundbreaking ceremony heralds a new era for Thorn and its employees as it will create a 21st Century workplace for a forward-thinking company with an exciting vision for how we will light our homes, offices and factories in the future.”