Bosses at Wigan's mammoth Heinz baked beans plant want to build a new cookhouse

Bosses at the Heinz factory in Wigan – famous for its baked beans – want to create a new ‘cookhouse’.
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The Walthew House Lane site currently has scaffolding around the current cookhouse to support the structure for “health and safety concerns”.

Applicant Kraft Heinz wants to build a new structure around the room as it remains operational. The company intends to bulldoze “dilapidated” walls.

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The plan is to sort the existing cookhouse in Kitt Green, which is in a poor state, supported by scaffolding.

Heinz's Kitt Green plant is one of the world's biggest food-canning factoriesHeinz's Kitt Green plant is one of the world's biggest food-canning factories
Heinz's Kitt Green plant is one of the world's biggest food-canning factories

It is one of the largest food processing plants in Europe and the largest Heinz facility in the world.

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It produces more than a billion cans of food annually and employs hundreds of people.

There are more plans for an additional cooker. Once the existing cookhouse is weatherproof, the existing facade, roof and supporting scaffolding structure will be deconstructed.

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In order to ensure that the cookhouse is to remain operational and does not pose health and safety risks, there is a requirement to carry out the overbuild and extension works. An extension is proposed to the western elevation of the building (Phase 2) to allow future provision for an additional cooker.

This forms a critical part of the plans for the site and allows for future capacity expectations and growth. There has been no confirmation from Heinz whether this would increase job opportunities in the area – but it has not been ruled out.

“The Phase 2 additional capacity of the fourth cooker installation has the potential to create additional capacity which may lead to additional jobs,” a planning statement said. “However it is not a known result at this stage.

“Ultimately the proposal is necessary to maintain the safe day to day operation of the site and existing processes which gives security to existing staff numbers.”

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The planned work is a welcome endorsement for the Wigan complex after a £140m masterplan to bring ketchup and other sauce production to the site collapsed in March last year.

Bosses had talked about such a project securing the future of the factory and it received backing from union bosses.

However a majority of staff were uncomfortable with the changes to working conditions that the new processes required and so they voted against it.

In March last year the food giant announced that there had been a change of plan and now European sauce production would be moved to Poland and Spain instead of Wigan.

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It laid the blame for the policy change squarely on the workers who refused to budge.

Concerns were voiced after the “no” vote that the loss of the sauce deal might signal the beginning of the end of Heinz’s presence in Wigan.

The company subsequently suggested that “improvements” would be needed if it were to have a future in the town although it did talk of further investments without specifying them.

Now the cookhouse project appears to demonstrate that Kraft Heinz does see a future in Wigan after all.

No decision has been made by Wigan Council on the proposals yet.

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