CONSTRUCTION work is expected to start next summer on a £100m paint making plant which is set to bring a major employment boost to a jobs-hit former North East pit town.
International paint company AkzoNobel has chosen Ashington as the location for the massive investment, which will treble its manufacturing capability in the region and bring up to 140 full-time jobs to the Northumberland town.
Yesterday the company held the first of two public consultation events to allow local people to find out more about the hi-tech factory which is planned on a 25-acre site on the Ashwood business park in North Seaton.
A planning application will be submitted to the county council later this year and, if it is approved, it is hoped that building work will start in July next year, with the plant up and running by mid or late 2014.
AkzoNobel, whose products include Dulux paint, Polycell filler and Cuprinol, plans to close its manufacturing units at Prudhoe, Northumberland, and Slough, in Berkshire, when the factory opens.
Last night Ashington project director Andy Jackson said most people who attended yesterday’s exhibition of the plans in North Seaton Colliery community centre had been interested in the job-creating potential of the plant.
Workers at Prudhoe and Slough will be offered the chance to transfer to the new plant, and it is expected that between 60 and 80 of the 140 jobs will be filled in this way. That means between 60 and 80 will be created for local people, along with significant auxiliary and supply jobs.
Mr Jackson said it will take about two years to build the new plant, during which time between 200 and 250 construction jobs will be created.
He said: “The key objective of the two consultation events is to share our plans with our potential neighbours, answer their questions about us and allay any fears they may have. We also want to demonstrate our excellent credentials going into this development in terms of sustainability and the environment.
“The biggest thing we have been getting questions about is job opportunities, which is obviously very important locally. We anticipate 120 jobs initially, going up to about 140.
“We have been reassuring people today about the standards we work to as a company, our reputation and the fact that people trust us for the brands we make. We have already had people making suggestions about environmental schemes we can get involved in here, and that is fantastic.”
One of the visitors to yesterday’s exhibition was Margaret Conway, who lives in Ashington. She said: “I had some concerns about possible smells from a big paint factory, because smell used to be a problem at the Glaxo factory. From what I’ve seen today the smells will be contained within the buildings, so that sounds good.
“It will mean more jobs for the local area, which is a bonus.”
The second public exhibition will be held today from 10am to 1pm at Woodhorn Colliery Museum near Ashington.