Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne today visited Hanson Building Products’ site in Accrington on the week that production was restarted, 7 years after the company was forced to close the Lancashire factory. The decision to reopen the factory, following a £1.6 million investment and the creation of over 30 new jobs, comes as the company tries to meet the soaring demand by the construction sector. The company also announced that it plans to create 20 further jobs at the site in 2015.
Construction was the worst hit sector of the economy during the recession. The sector contracted by 13% in 2009 and house building output fell to an all-time low. However the house building sector is now going from strength to strength, growing 18% over the last year.
With housing starts also seeing a dramatic upturn last year, fuelled by the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, Hanson reopened its nearby Claughton Manor plant near Lancaster and added additional shifts at its midlands factories at Kirton, Desford and Wilnecote.
The decision to restart production at Accrington comes as the company has seen demand for bricks continue to outstrip supply. The re-start will be carried out in 2 stages with phase one kicking off in January and phase 2, which will require further investment of around £350,000, following later in 2015. There is a plentiful supply of raw materials – the adjoining quarry has 30 to 40 years of clay reserves.
Bricks have been manufactured at the Huncoat site near Accrington since 1887. They are made from fire clay and are so strong and durable that they become known in the trade as iron bricks. At one time the works chimney had the letters IRON painted vertically on it with the N at the top, prompting locals to call it the NORI brick factory.
Red Nori bricks were used in the foundations of the Blackpool Tower and the Empire State Building in New York as well as in thousands of houses, factories and schools throughout northern England.
Today’s visit forms part of the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s two day tour of the north-west where they are setting out their 6-point long-term economic plan for the region, showing what has been delivered, what is underway and what more can be done to build a northern powerhouse.
This is the first in a series of regional tours that the Chancellor and Prime Minister will be undertaking throughout the country in the coming weeks and months, to highlight what the government is doing to ensure a truly national recovery.
As part of their plan, the pair today pledged to build 25,000 quality homes in the north-west and released a shortlist of areas which are in line to receive £200 million of government loans to regenerate run-down brownfield areas into new housing. 3 bids from the region have been shortlisted, including from Pennine Lancashire – one of the biggest in the country – which would benefit Pendle, Rossendale and Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn and Blackburn.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor’s six-point long-term economic plan for the north-west is as follows:
- to increase the long term growth rate of the north-west to at least the forecast growth rate of the whole UK, by building a northern powerhouse, which could generate an £18 billion real terms increase in the size of the north-west economy by 2030. In real terms this is equivalent to over £2,000 per person in the north-west, or a 50% increase, compared to if the north-west continued to grow at its long run average
- to raise the employment rate in the north-west to that of the UK average. That will ensure over 100,000 more people in employment in the north-west during the next Parliament by supporting the private sector, backing business investment and new start-ups in our drive for full employment in the north
- to deliver the largest ever and most sustained investment in the long-term transport infrastructure of the north-west. With £4.5 billion committed to electrification of existing rail lines, new trains, new urban transport, and a major upgrade to the roads across the whole region. This is on top of the committed £42.6 billion investment in new high speed connections from the north of England to the South and the potential for investment in high speed connections East to West across the north of England
- to make the north-west a global centre of outstanding scientific innovation, with a particular focus on material science, biomedicine, supercomputing and energy with major investments in the excellent universities and NHS teaching hospitals of the region, and making sure the energy resources are used to the benefit of local people
- to raise the quality of life in the north-west by supporting its great cultural and sporting strengths, building up to 25,000 new homes, nurturing the rural environment and improving education outcomes in the region’s schools so over 75,000 more pupils attend outstanding schools
- to give greater power and voice to the great cities and counties of the north-west, delivering a new directly-elected Mayor for Greater Manchester, and supporting other areas with appropriate plans to give people greater control over their local economy and local government
The size of the prize if the northern powerhouse can be created in the north-west is clear:
- an £18 billion real terms increase in the size of the north-west economy by 2030, if we raise the long-term growth rate of the north-west to at least as high as the forecast overall UK growth rate
- this is equivalent to over £2,000 per person in the north-west in real terms
- over 100,000 more people in employment during the next Parliament, if the working age employment rate gap between the north-west and the UK average was closed today
- up to 25,000 new homes for families in the north-west, if we continue our substantial level of investment in housing in the region
- over 75,000 more children attending outstanding schools, if school performance in the North West matches that in the highest performing region
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said:
A key part of our long term plan is ensuring that we build an economic recovery for all parts of the country, including the north-west.
That’s why I’m delighted to be here in Accrington on the week that Hanson restarted brick making in the town. The closure of the brickworks was a painful symbol of how our economy has suffered in recent years, and its re-opening is the strongest evidence possible that Britain and the north-west are coming back, and are once again on course to prosperity.
Stephen Harrison, Managing Director of Hanson Building Products, said:
We are anticipating further growth in new housing starts in the short to medium term and are confident that this factory has a prominent part to play in the economic recovery.
John Stewart, Director of Economic Affairs at the Home Builders Federation said:
Since the launch of the Help to Buy scheme there has been a big increase in house building activity. Material suppliers have stepped up and increased production to meet the new level of demand.
As well as providing the homes we need this increase in house building has created thousands of new jobs on sites and in the supply chain, boosting local economies up and down the country.