Belfast Telegraph

Job losses no threat to Wrightbus Ballymena expansion

By Andrew Madden

Wrightbus has confirmed that plans to move production to the former JTI Gallaher site in Ballymena remain unchanged, despite last week's announcement that 95 posts at the company are under threat.

The manufacturing firm bought the site in 2016 and last year unveiled plans to build a 200,000 sq ft industrial complex, 600-space car park and 75 two-storey residential houses next to its current facility in the Galgorm area of the town.

In a statement accompanying the designs, Wrightbus said they had "become a victim of their own success as they have outgrown the present site at Galgorm".

Last week, Wrightbus announced that, with "a heavy heart", it had started consulting over a potential workforce reduction at its factory in the town.

It said it was facing some very difficult conditions in its domestic market, with current orders for new vehicles at "relatively low levels".

The firm employs more than 1,500 people and sells its vehicles in both domestic and international markets.

In a statement yesterday, a Wrightbus spokesman said plans to move to the JTI site are still going forward.

"The plans to progressively move production to the former JTI site remain unaffected by last week's announcement," he said.

According to the plans the new project itself will be carried out in three phases.

Firstly, the residential development will be completed as a "means to an end", as the finished houses will be rented out or sold in order to provide funding for the industrial and car parking stages of the project.

The second stage will seek to address the parking issue that currently plagues the existing Wrightbus facility, providing 600 new spaces on land adjacent to the Fenaghy Road.

Finally, a new industrial and commercial facility will be built next to the existing Wrightbus operation.

The proposal includes a 200,000 sq ft single-storey factory and an accompanying two-storey office building with included welfare facilities.

According to their most recent accounts, Wrightbus made a pre-tax profit of nearly £11m in 2016, on turnover of £264m.

Belfast Telegraph

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