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Prime Minister and Chancellor visit Accrington brickworks

David Cameron and George Osborne at Accrington brick works

David Cameron and George Osborne on hand to see production recommence at Lancashire factory

PRIME Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visited Accrington brick works to mark the restart of production, seven years after the Lancashire factory was mothballed.

Around £1.4 million has been invested and 30 jobs created to bring the works back into production as regional and national demand for bricks continues to rise.

The visit was part of a two-day tour of north-west England by the Prime Minister and Chancellor to set out the Government’s long-term economic plan for the region, showing what has been delivered, what is under way and what more can be done to build a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

They were hosted by Hanson UK’s chief executive officer, Patrick O’Shea, and Stephen Harrison, managing director of Hanson Building Products, and given a tour of the factory, where they met members of the workforce.

George Osborne said: ‘A key part of the Government’s 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 in the week that Hanson restarted brick making in the town.

‘The closure of the brick works was a painful symbol of how our economy has suffered in recent years, and its reopening is the strongest evidence possible that Britain and the North West are coming back, and are once again on course to prosperity.’

Stephen Harrison said: ‘We are anticipating further growth in new housing starts over the next five years and are confident that this factory has a prominent part to play in the economic recovery.’

Brick production at Accrington stopped in 2008 as house building across the country slumped to an all-time low. The kiln was shut down and 83 workers lost their jobs with a crew of just two remaining on site to sell off the remaining stock.

There was a temporary respite in 2009 when the factory re-opened for a spell, but this proved to be a false dawn and the site was finally closed in October 2012.

However, the climate changed mid-way through 2013 when a dramatic upturn in housing starts, fuelled by the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ programme, created a renewed and sustained demand for bricks.

As a result, Hanson’s nearby Claughton Manor plant, near Lancaster, was brought back into production last year – the first time a brick works had ever been ‘de-mothballed’ – and additional shifts were added at the company’s Midlands factories at Kirton, Desford and Wilnecote.

With demand continuing to outstrip supply, a decision was taken last May to reopen the Accrington factory, which has the capacity to produce 45 million bricks a year. The restart is being carried out in two stages with the second phase, which will require further investment of around £350,000, due to follow later this year.

Hanson say the factory has a plentiful supply of raw materials, with its adjoining quarry having some 30–40 years of clay reserves.

Bricks have been manufactured at the Huncoat site, near Accrington, since 1887. They are made from fireclay 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.

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