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Surprise pledge by Young’s means a ‘fighting chance’ for campaign to save Cromer Crab Company

The logo for the North Norfolk News' Claws Off campaign, which aims to save Cromer Crab Company from closure.

The logo for the North Norfolk News' Claws Off campaign, which aims to save Cromer Crab Company from closure.

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The Claws Off campaign has received a huge early boost after food giant Young’s made a surprise pledge to keep crab and lobster processing in Cromer.

Just a week after the 90-day consultation began on the future of Cromer Crab Company, the firm’s chief operating officer Pete Ward said: “We are committed to keeping that element in Cromer.”

The shaft of light came as a host of celebrities, including Stephen Fry, Alan Titchmarsh and Delia Smith, got behind the bid to save the Holt Road factory and the 230 people who work there.

And a Keep it Cromer petition, organised by North Norfolk Labour Party, reached more than 4,000 signatures in barely a week of campaigning.

On Monday, North Norfolk Radio, which is supporting the Claws Off campaign, aired an hour-long special to highlight the fight.

During the show, North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, Cromer’s Labour mayor Greg Hayman and Tory cabinet member at North Norfolk District Council, Trevor Ivory agreed to get together in Cromer on Saturday to rally support.

They will be joined by North Norfolk News deputy editor Steve Downes and North Norfolk Radio programme manager Graham Lewis.

And on Wednesday, the district council will debate a motion from deputy leader and crab fisherman John Lee and Tom Fitzpatrick, cabinet member for economic development.

It says the council “notes with dismay” the risk to the future of the factory, and adds: “This council’s first priority is to seek to retain the business within Cromer and to safeguard the jobs of the 230 staff employed there.

“To this end, we are working closely with the owners of the business, the staff and other stakeholders to secure this objective and fully support the campaign being run by the North Norfolk News.”

Speaking on the North Norfolk Radio show, Mr Hayman said: “It’s very clear that Young’s are aware and have been taken by surprise at the level of support that there is for the company. I hope they are listening and thinking very carefully.”

Mr Lamb said: “I think there’s a fighting chance for Cromer Crab Company.”

Mr Downes said: “I am delighted to join the get-together in Cromer on Saturday. There is a real head of steam building up on this issue, and this event demonstrates the appetite among people of all and no political persuasions to save Cromer Crab Company.”

Despite the pledge by Young’s to look to keep crab and lobster processing in Cromer being a step forward, campaigners said it would only secure a small proportion of the 230 jobs.

While morale among workers at the factory is said to be low, a change in the tone of Mr Ward’s comments has added impetus to the Claws Off campaign.

Mr Ward said: “We are consulting on what we can do to improve the financial situation of the Cromer factory and turn it into a business with a long-term, sustainable base.”

He added: “I think the reaction from the public highlights the iconic nature of the Cromer crab and the passion and pride in its heritage. We are looking at ways to retain the processing of Cromer crab and lobster in Cromer.”

● The rally to save Cromer Crab Company will begin at 10am outside Lloyds-TSB on Church Street in Cromer on Saturday. Everybody is welcome.

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