The ‘last man standing’ on a South Tyneside industrial estate is preparing to move on after quarter of a century as plans for a new 329-home development move a step closer to reality.
Bill Wilson has spent the past 25 years building up BNB Fabrications Ltd on the Bedewell Industrial Estate in Hebburn.
But the buoyant business, which currently employs 32 workers – the majority of which live in Hebburn – is poised to move to a potential new site in Washington as Barratt Homes pushes ahead with building properties aimed at first-time buyers and larger families on the site.
Today the company invited the local community in Hebburn to attend a public exhibition at Monkton Stadium in Jarrow from 3.30pm to 6.30pm to scrutinise its plans.
Two years ago, Mr Wilson was granted a five-year ‘stay of execution’ by the council’s planning committee to remain on the land.
And although technically he could stay on the site until 2017, he’s aiming to move “sooner rather than later”.
It will be a bit of wrench to leave Hebburn after building the business up since 1989.Bill Wilson, BNB Fabrications
His company, which incorporates a 4,800sq ft paint shop and shot blasting facility, is now the only industrial unit remaining on the estate.
Mr Wilson said: “It will be a bit of wrench to leave Hebburn after building the business up since 1989. It will be hard on the local lads, particularly those who get to work on push bikes.
“I have my eye on a unit in Washington and I am anticipating that Barratt, which now has the freehold on the land, will make me an offer and I won’t be staying much longer in South Tyneside.
“The company is buoyant and we’ve got orders with Siemens and a quarter of a million pound order to make ovens for Baker Perkins.
“The reality is there is just nowhere to expand to in South Tyneside and I’m the last man standing here now, all the other units are empty.
“I didn’t think they’d get a buyer for the land because it is heavily contaminated but now they have I imagine we’ll be moving on sooner rather than later.”
Coun John McCabe, who represents Hebburn South for Labour, has expressed his sadness at the loss to the town of a traditional industry and its workforce.
He said: “I’m sad to see a specialised workforce leaving the town, an older workforce, mostly from Hebburn, which can’t be replaced.
“The kick back for the council is that we can get a percentage of social rented tenants, which is one of the only ways we can get houses built these days.”
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We have not received a planning application for a housing development on the Bedewell Industrial Estate. If an application is received it will be judged on its merits.”