Top-level meeting on Dairy Crest future

SENIOR councillors and officers are set to meet Dairy Crest managers early next month to discuss the future of the company’s site in Fenstanton after it closes in November with the loss of 250 jobs.

Although the firm is still in the process of a 90-day consultation with employees and trade unions, the recent investment history in other sites in London and the West Country suggests that a reprieve for Fenstanton and Dairy Crest’s other doomed site at Aintree, in Liverpool, is unlikely.

When the impending closure was announced last month, the firm said the prospect of employees’ redeploying to other Dairy Crest sites without moving home was slight.

But planners will want to retain employment use at the site, which is very close to the A14, and planners at Huntingdonshire District Council will want to include the prospect of a new village hall in a design brief for a tract of land that could also include another triangle that, with the dairy site, makes up a broadly rectangular area between Fenstanton High Street and the trunk road.

If the area is developed, some housing is inevitable, but HDC’s executive leader, Councillor Jason Ablewhite, who also holds his cabinet’s economic development portfolio, has said he is determined to keep jobs there – ideally 250 of them.

He will lead a council delegation – to include County Councillor Ian Bates, the village’s district councillor, Greg Harlock, and one of HDC’s two managing directors – to meet Dairy Crest’s managing director and other senior managers at the site of June 6, shortly before the end of the consultation period.

The previous village hall, in Chequer Street, closed a decade ago after falling into dilapidation, and the site was subsequently sold for the erection of two new homes. Since then the village hall committee has been searching for a new site.