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Employment blow for Barnstaple as Heathcoat Fabrics site closure is confirmed

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 29, 2013

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A specialist textiles manufacturer is set to close its North Devon factory, with the loss of up to 35 jobs.

Heathcoat Fabrics has announced plans to close its Barnstaple facility on May 31.

Employees at the unit were told last month that the business could be consolidated at the manufacturer's Tiverton plant, in response to 'bleak' trading conditions.

Last night, managing director Cameron Harvie confirmed the factory closure, adding that new roles created as a result of the relocation to Tiverton would be available to those Barnstaple employees prepared to undertake a move to the facility.

Heathcoat has 460 employees at the Tiverton site, which is also the base for its research facilities. Formerly Small and Tidmas, the Barnstaple factory was purchased from British Vita in 1999 and is currently part the Heathcoat's Knitted Textile division, which operates from both Tiverton and Barnstaple.

This arm of the business finishes textiles used for digital printing, specialist fabrics for coating and lamination items such as banners and traditional clothing fabrics – a market which, said Mr Harvie – has been in decline for "some time."

He said that Heathcoat could no longer offset the "prohibitive" running costs of the Barnstaple site and maintaining its equipment, adding: "The decision to close the Barnstaple site has been taken only after every effort has been made to bring the Barnstaple business back into profit.

"However ongoing weakness in the UK and European markets has left the business with insufficient volume to continue and we have exhausted all other courses of action prior to making the decision to close the site.

"We would like to thank all our staff in Barnstaple for their continued hard work in supporting the business and it is with regret that we have taken this difficult decision."

Heathcoat Fabrics was founded in Tiverton in 1808 by industrialist, entrepreneur and philanthropist John Heathcoat, who pioneered the process of making machine-made net lace.

The company has grown to become a world leader in the manufacture of high technology woven textiles, supplying fabrics used by military personnel such as flying suits and tank operators' overalls.

In October last year, its Tiverton operation won contracts valued at £2 million to supply contracts for parachute fabrics, including to the UK and French military markets, with this division of the business "still doing well."

The contract wins followed an investment of almost £500,000 in new technology at Tiverton, enabling the company allowed the company to improve the quality of its fabric.

The Heathcoat Fabrics announcement is the second significant employment blow for Barnstaple in recent months.

In November, the Laidlaw Interiors Group ceased production at the Leaderflush Shapland door factory, with the loss of around 75 jobs, transferring operations to its facility in Nottingham.

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  • merrythought  |  January 31 2013, 5:04PM

    I understand that the shop will still open. Sad for the factory workers.

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