A taskforce has been set up to address the announced closure of Appledore Shipyard scheduled for 15th March 2019. The first meeting took place last Thursday at TDC’s Caddsdown Business Support Centre and was organised and chaired by South West Business Council (SWBC). Representatives from other key organisations and influencers also attended and included officers and representatives from Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Job Centre+, Chamber of Commerce/Recruitment specialist, Unite, GMB, Torridge District Council, Devon County Council, North Devon Council, Petroc, North Devon Manufacturers Association and South West Business Council.
The main agreed priority of the taskforce is to do everything possible to preserve the shipyard as a functioning maritime asset and at the same time achieve the best outcome for the place and the people affected.
A status report was given by SWBC, who have met with Babcock’s who reconfirmed that under current plans the shipyard will close and the premises handed back to the owners. There are 199 directly employed staff plus up to 70 jobs within the supply chain at risk and the estimated loss to the local economy is estimated to be around £10million per annum.
The owners are already actively marketing the site for marine use and from a planning perspective there is likely to be 3 years of ‘protected use’ for the site, which would restrict applications for any change of use during that time. While some prospective bidders for the site have come forward and other opportunities are being pursued there are no credible bidders at this moment in time.
The Job Centre+ team reported that work was already underway to assist the workforce through any transition and Torridge Council will also provide support and advice in the coming months. It is understood that Babcock’s have offered employees work at Devonport, Hinkley or Bristol with ‘Disturbance’ and Relocation packages.
Councillor Jane Whittaker – Leader Torridge District Council said:
“Our ultimate goal for the shipyard is very clear and that is to try and find a solution that will allow it to continue as a place of work beyond the planned closure next year. Ideally this will be linked to the maritime heritage the site and its workforce are renowned for but on a pragmatic level we will also be looking at contingencies for new start up’s that may wish to use the premises and opportunities to utilise spare space and diversify.
The workforce will also be a priority to ensure that they receive the best advice and support and are signposted to any retraining or upskilling opportunities that can be organised for them. It is distressing to hear that some staff have understandably already made the decision to leave or are actively seeking alternative employment. All of this will be closely linked to additional work in quantifying and limiting the impact of any closure on the local supply chain, which will also be affected. Further lobbying at Government level will inevitably be part of the mix in all of this.”