Lafarge Cement UK announced that it is ‘mothballing’ all cement production facilities at its Westbury Works in Wiltshire.
This decision follows the announcement made in September to mothball half of the site’s manufacturing operations. It reflects further deterioration in the market and the continuing tough cost conditions faced by the company.
Lafarge Cement UK’s managing director Erdogan Pekenc explains: “In September, we highlighted the challenges faced by this plant and the entire company due to increasing energy costs. These were having an even greater impact on Westbury Works due to the energy-intensive nature of its process. Since then, we have seen further deterioration in market conditions, which means we need to realign our manufacturing ‘footprint’.
“Westbury Works has played an important role in our UK business network for many years, and it is with regret that, despite the proactive actions we have taken to manage the impact of these challenges, we are currently unable to continue operations at the site.”
The plant will operate as a depot, with the option of receiving cement by both rail and road. With the exception of a small number of depot and logistics positions, the majority of the plant’s current team of 68 will be leaving the site in the next few months. Consultation with staff affected by this announcement is underway.
Erdogan continues: “Since September, we have been working closely with the plant team to support them with their future aspirations and plans. In fact, we have managed to ensure that the majority of employees leaving the site have done so on a voluntary basis. The remaining staff affected by this latest decision will receive the same well-established, comprehensive range of support over the coming months.
“It remains our commitment as a company to support our employees. We have very strong collective working agreements - recognised as best practice by trade unions – that can provide a framework to help manage situations such as this.”
Following ‘mothballing’, neither of the Works’ kilns will be used until market and cost conditions allow cement manufacturing to recommence at the site. Similarly, although quarry operations will be suspended, the company will ensure that the quarry remains screened and the requirements of its planning permission are met, to allow operations to restart if and when the plant resumes production.
“Although we are seeing further contraction in the construction market, we are focused on ensuring that we can continue to serve our customers reliably in the south and the west, as well as across the rest of the UK,” added Erdogan. “However, this announcement marks a very sad day for Lafarge Cement UK and it remains our hope that if market and cost conditions allow, the Works can be brought back into operation at some point in the future.”