THE doomed Dairy Crest plant at Fenstanton will stay open until the New Year to help the company cope with extra demand over the Christmas holiday.

Production ended two weeks ago, but 73 of the 248 employees have been kept on until January, when they will face redundancy.

Remarkably, more than 80 per cent of the 175 employees who have already left have moved on to other things.

In the meantime, the site has been put on the market and has already generated commercial interest.

A Dairy Crest spokesman told The Hunts Post: "In April we took the extremely difficult decision to enter into consultation with the 248 employees at our dairy in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire, with the view to closing down production at the site.

"This decision was not taken lightly, but we believe that the restructuring of our dairies business is the right decision for the long-term future of Dairy Crest and will allow us to re-invest in our other sites.

"Production ceased at Fenstanton on Thursday, October 25. The cold store and some of the transport division will remain open until January 2013 to provide extra capacity during the busy Christmas period and ensure that Dairy Crest continues to deliver our top quality produce to the standards expected by our customers.

"Seventy-three people will remain employed and on site until January before entering into our normal redundancy programme," the spokesman added.

"We have put together a package of support for all employees who have been affected by this closure and, although talks are still ongoing, so far over 80 per cent of the former employees have found alternative employment, education or retired. Dairy Crest has found internal employment for a number of these staff."

She said the site had been advertised as a former dairy production site.

Marketing is being handled by London-based commercial property advisers Matthews and Goodman, with local input from Huntingdon-based Barker Storey Matthews (no relation).

Matthews and Goodman's Mark Tilson said: "We are seeking to establish who could make use of the buildings and land. It's possible - though unlikely in the economic climate - that it could continue as an employment site, and we have embarked on a useful dialogue with planners at Huntingdonshire District Council on the future of the site.

"We've had some interest already, but it's too soon to say what that might come to."

Planners and councillors are determined that some employment should continue at the dairy site - ideally replacing all the 250 lost jobs - and they will be looking for some mixed-use development of the Dairy Crest site and land across the road owned by local farming family, the Burgesses.

That could include a new village hall for the 3,000-plus villagers, who have been without one for more than a decade.