Norfolk

Heinz jobs: 1,200 people sign Norfolk Aunt Bessie's factory petition

Entrance to Heinz Westwick factory in North Walsham
Image caption The Westwick plant in North Walsham employs about 200 people

Almost 1,200 people have signed a petition against the closure of a Heinz food factory in Norfolk.

Two hundred jobs are at risk at the Westwick plant in North Walsham, which produces Aunt Bessie's potato products.

Denise Burke, from the North Norfolk Labour Party, which set up the petition, said the closure would have a "substantial impact" on the local area.

A Heinz spokesman said the firm was "actively exploring all options" before a final decision was made.

The proposed closure, announced earlier this month, comes as Heinz's licence to manufacture Aunt Bessie's products comes to an end in April.

'Deeply disappointed'

Ms Burke said some aspects of the talks with the company had been "positive", including a possible extension to the 45-day consultation period with staff.

But she said it had yet to address a number of concerns or undertake an equality impact assessment, to analyse the effect of the closure on the area.

Image caption Staff are being consulted over the proposal to close the Westwick factory

"If the site closes, it will have a substantial impact on the local economy," said Ms Burke, who believes unemployment in the area could rise by as much as 30%.

"It's incredibly important it stays open because it's not just those who work in the factory that will be affected, it will impact on other jobs such as the farmers who grow the potatoes and the hauliers who deliver them.

"We either need someone else to come in or Heinz to actively look for other contracts."

Heinz said it was "deeply disappointed" at having to make the announcement, adding it would "continue to explore alternatives to avoid or limit the impact of a potential closure".

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