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Thwaites bosses announce Blackburn base move
BOSSES at Thwaites have announced the firm will move to a new site four miles from its current Blackburn town centre base.
The 200-year-old brewery will relocate to Sykes Holt at Mellor Brook, just off the A59.
It comes two and a half years after the initial announcement the company wanted to move from its iconic Star Brewery in Penny Street.
After months of speculation that the firm could leave East Lancashire altogether, news of the move has been welcomed with Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans saying he was ‘over the moon’.
Thwaites chief executive Rick Bailey said the Mellor Brook would house a new brewery and head office, as well as an expanded and improved visitor centre.
Total investment in the move could be as much as £10million.
It comes as the firm published its annual accounts which showed a two per cent decrease in operating profit.
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The firm also announced a write-off of £11.6million worth of brewing equipment while cask ale volumes grew eight per cent, underpinned by growth in its flagship Wainwright ale of 31 per cent.
The firm said it is now set to focus on its range of craft beers and will continue to outsource production of licensed keg beers to other breweries.
Mr Bailey said: “This is a tremendously exciting day for us, to be able to share where we plan to relocate our whole business to over the coming months.
“We will be applying for planning permission to build our new brewery, head office and a visitor centre.
“Completion of the purchase will take place in six months in order to allow the current owners time to leave the site.
“We will be working hard in that time to make sure that as soon as we complete the purchase we will be in a position to start work quickly.
“We will be working with the planners to create an exciting scheme to make the most of the site, part of which dates back to 1540.”
Mr Bailey told the Lancashire Telegraph bosses were hopeful a borehole could be installed at the site so the firm could tap into the same ‘aquifer’, ensuring the water used in the brewing process was the same so the taste of the company’s beers did not change.
Mr Bailey added it had always been the firm’s intention to stay in the area.
He said: “It has always been hugely important to us that we stay close to Blackburn, which has been our home for more than 200 years, and we have been very aware that we would like to safeguard jobs in the area.
“We said in our announcement in 2011 we wanted to find somewhere locally and we have delivered on that promise.”
Nationally the firm employs 812 full-time staff and 647 part-time and has more than 300 pubs.
All 200 staff currently based in Penny Street, which includes around 10 brewing staff, will relocate to Mellor Brook.
Thwaites will lodge a planning application in the near future and hopes to start a building programme early next year.
It is expected the development will be completed in 18 months to two years.
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “I am very relieved that they have been able to secure their future in the area and it is not as if they are moving across the country or closing.
“The Yerburgh family deserve recognition for the fact they have kept Thwaites going when many comparable breweries have closed.
“The change in brewing and the market for beers in the past 10 years have meant that the vertical brewery in the town centre designed for brewing large quantities of mild is now obsolete.”
Ribble Valley MP and president of the Parliamentary beer Club, Nigel Evans said: “I am absolutely over the moon.
“It is great news that this prestige beer will continue to be brewed in East Lancashire. I am sure Thwaites will ensure the taste of their excellent beers remains the same.
“The new brewery and visitors centre will help boost the profile of these excellent beers and hopefully bring them to the attention of more customers.
“This will help maintain hundreds of years of brewing tradition in the area. It’s great news for Ribble Valley and East Lancashire beer drinkers. Thwaites brews some the best beer in the country and will continue to so with their new brewery.”
Coun Kate Hollern, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “I am disappointed Thwaites did not choose to stay in Blackburn, but we will continue to work with them to sort out the future of their town centre site, which is our focus now.”
Ribble Valley Borough Council leader Stuart Hirst said: “Thwaites is a prestigious and important local company, with a long and illustrious history.
“We are delighted they are coming to the Ribble Valley and will offer them all the help and support we can to assist with their plans for the future.
“We have been working with Thwaites for at least two years to find a site. A number have been looked at.
“There have been pre-planning discussions that have gone well. We can see no obvious obstacles and the proposal does not contravene any borough policies but the planning process will now have to proceed as normal.”
Chairwoman of Mellor Parish Council Coun Pat Young also welcomed the move.
She said: “It will be in keeping with the enterprise park in this area.
“Thwaites is an established and prestigious firm so this will be good for the area.”
Matt Knowles, owner of the nearby Fielden’s Arms, added: “I would certainly welcome Thwaites to the area with open arms.
“I like Thwaites as I think they have been very loyal to their staff over the years and their ales are great.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “I am very pleased that the new brewery will continue to be in the Blackburn area and in East Lancashire. The main thing Burnley beer lovers will be concerned about is that the taste of the beers stay the same.”