‘Glimmer of hope’ for Barnstaple factory

Joseph Bulmer

New owners of Leaderflush Shapland consider whether to keep local employer in North Devon

THERE could be hope for the future of Leaderflush Shapland in Barnstaple as its new owners consider whether to keep the door manufacturer and its jobs in the town.

On Thursday executives from new owners Laidlaw Solutions Limited visited the site to meet staff and confirm the decision to close the factory had been put on hold until late December.

Peter O’Brien, group commercial director of the newly formed company Laidlaw Interiors Group, said the visit was part of a roadshow to all new locations purchased following the acquisition of SIG Interiors Manufacturing.

The Anchorwood Bank site lost half of its workforce last year and the remaining 95 employees were told by the previous owners that production would be moved to Nottingham, with only sales staff left in Barnstaple.

Now there is a glimmer of hope and while Mr O’Brien said it was too early to make a decision on the long term future he remained upbeat, telling the Gazette: “It’s certainly more positive than negative, but we need time to assess what the correct manufacturing decision is.

“We were very impressed with the level of skill and commitment shown by the Leaderflush Shapland workforce in Barnstaple.

“We want to have a good look at whether it is right to close that plant or not. Our business has changed, as we have formed a larger group that is focused on interiors.

“Laidlaw is primarily an ironmongery and door set supplier, Leaderflush Shapland is a door manufacturer. These go together very positively, there’s a good synergy between them and the combination of the two strengths is quite compelling.

“But we have to look at what is the right thing for the business.”

West Midlands based Laidlaw Solutions Ltd was backed in its acquisition of SIG by private equity group Rutland Partners. The purchase means the new Laidlaw Interiors Group will become the leading UK supplier to the commercial interiors sector with a market leading position in door sets, ironmongery and partition systems.

A statement said Rutland and Laidlaw intended to restructure and invest in the acquired businesses to turn around performance and build on the strength of the combined brands.

North Devon Council Leader Brian Greenslade welcomed news that offered a ray of hope to the historic factory, formerly Shapland and Petter and a landmark in the town for more than 150 years.

“I welcome this development very much and hope the endeavours of the new owners will prove to be fruitful, not just for the employees but for the local economy,” he said.

“I have already expressed to Shapland management that is there is anything North Devon Council can reasonably do to help retain jobs in Barnstaple and North Devon, we will be pleased to help.”