Shocked businesses on a Wigan commerce park face a nightmare few weeks after being given short notice to quit the site.
More than a dozen companies based on the Bradley Hall Trading Estate in Standish have been given notice, with exit dates ranging between mid-November and early January.
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Himor, which runs the site, says some of the buildings close to the Bradley Lane entrance are in too poor a state to repair.
Businesses have spoken of their shock and anger, some saying it will be very difficult to find suitable alternative bases within the borough.
Himor has categorically stated its commitment to maintaining the area for business use after fears were raised the move could be a prelude to more house-building being planned.
The firm says the businesses are working in older units and repairing them has become unviable.
The unexpected announcement has caused deep anger as it came out of the blue and a Standish residents’ forum has also expressed alarm.
Some companies have just weeks to remain at the site but even those staying until the new year face the unenviable prospect of searching for somewhere else to go over Christmas.
One business owner, who asked not to be named, said: “It has put a lot of people in a terrible predicament. Everyone was expecting them to put new industrial units up so it has come as a bit of a shock.
“This is the only industrial estate in Standish. There are lots of nice office blocks around but our work creates a bit of dirt and mess. There are very few places we can go. If we leave here we would have to leave the area entirely.”
One trader on the estate, though, suspected other motives were at play: “I don’t think they are justified in doing this. It looks like they are trying to blame it on the roofs when they want to flatten it for housing.
“Nobody suspected this at all. If they had built other units elsewhere or helped people move it wouldn’t be so bad but they’ve not provided a single alternative as far as I know.
“One guy has been made ill with the stress of this. With all my equipment it is going to cost me tens of thousands of pounds to move.
“What I can’t understand is why they are doing this now. If the units were empty it wouldn’t be so much of a surprise but the trading estate is 95 per cent occupied and some people only moved in a few months ago.”
Residents’ group Standish Voice said it was horrified by the latest development as it was expecting to see long-term investment in Bradley Hall as a business venue after the extensive house-building in the area.
A spokesman said: “It is shocking that it seems some very well established businesses have been given such little notice of having to move from their premises. We hope that the owners of the trading estate do all they can to find suitable accommodation for these firms in the short-term and longer term.
“Bradley Lane Trading Estate is an important part of the Standish community, providing vital employment in the village. It was assured in 2014 when Wigan Council gave permission for part of the trading estate to be demolished for housing that the remainder would be refurbished to a high standard, so safeguarding its future. We believe funds have been allocated for this.
“We hope Wigan Council can give assurances that this money is being spent properly to ensure the future of the trading estate and the businesses that thrive there. We will be monitoring the situation closely to make sure employment provision is kept on this part of the site and the rest of the estate.”
But Himor moved quickly to say there are no plans for further housing and rebuffed criticism of the way firms have been treated.
A spokesman said: “We are committed to Bradley Hall’s long-term future as a business location and are continuing to invest in its infrastructure and facilities.
"An isolated number of older units at the industrial estate are reaching the end of their life span and, while we have explored a range of options, a thorough review has found that these units are not viable for refurbishment.
“Unfortunately, this means that we have had to serve notice to the tenants of these buildings, in accordance with their lease terms. We are working closely with those affected, to be as flexible as possible to their needs. This has included relocating businesses within the estate where possible.
“Bradley Hall will continue to be home to more than 100 businesses and is benefitting from ongoing investment, including over £380,000 of projects over the last 18 months to deliver refurbishments, road resurfacing and upgrades to the site’s electrical infrastructure.”