Former Heinz factory at Westwick to be back in business this autumn

The former Heinz factory at Westwick near North Walsham. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The former Heinz factory at Westwick near North Walsham. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Potato production will start again within weeks at an historic factory following a shock closure four months ago.

Community leaders and residents in the North Walsham area are welcoming the news that the former Heinz factory at Westwick will reopen under its new Scottish-based Albert Bartlett owners from September.

More than 100 members of Aylsham Agricultural Show Association were told by an Albert Bartlett representative on Monday the factory would produce chilled and frozen potato products as part of its expanding Rooster brand from September 1.

They learned that Albert Bartlett had invested £2.5m in the factory.

Albert Bartlett also wants Norfolk potato farmers to grow specifically for the factory and pledged to use 100pc homegrown potatoes, rather than European imports.

Barry Hester, North Walsham deputy mayor, said: 'It will be great for residents of the town and for employment. I'm very happy.'

Some 200 people lost their jobs after the closure of the Heinz factory, at the end of April, and it is unknown how many jobs will be created through Albert Bartlett.

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But Julia Nix, district manager for East Anglia JobCentre Plus, said the Westwick factory was part of the Scottish firm's expansion plans and Albert Bartlett was working with the JobCentre Plus in contacting former Heinz employees for potential jobs.

Nick Lee, North Walsham Chamber for Business chairman, welcomed the development and said it was good news Albert Bartlett had managed to reopen the factory quickly for this year's harvest.

'I know a lot of businesses are happy farming wise. Lots of people will be looking for jobs there who lost jobs in April. Albert Bartlett has put a huge amount of investment into the factory,' Mr Lee said.

The businessman hoped the factory would employ similar numbers of people compared to the Heinz operation.

Rob Scammell, from the Regenerate North Walsham group, said: 'Albert Bartlett seems to have an eye on working with local people so that is good news.'

He added Albert Bartlett had a good reputation for employees as well as a strong brand.

The firm's Rooster brand potatoes are widely sold in UK supermarkets.

Norfolk county councillor John Timewell, who represents the Westwick area, said people living near factory were 'delighted' about the reopening.

'It helps hold up the Norfolk economy,' he said.

Thomas Love, National Farmers' Union county chairman for Norfolk, who is also a potato producer in Walcott, said: 'The Norfolk farmers will be very pleased to supply Albert Bartlett with a big portion of their demand.'

The Westwick factory first opened in 1948 and was a vegetable and fruit processing factory, before being bought by UB Frozen and Chilled Foods, and subsequently Heinz.

It closed this year after Heinz lost a major contract to produce frozen potato products for the Aunt Bessie's range.

The News contacted Albert Bartlett for a response but a spokesman from the company said they could not comment at the moment.