Petition launched over closure of Plumb Center in South Shields

The Plumb Centre in Western Approach, South Shields.
The Plumb Centre in Western Approach, South Shields.

Plumbers are warning of higher costs to customers after the closure of a major parts supplier.

They have slammed a decision by the Plumb Center to shut its South Shields branch while keeping open two neighbouring outlets in North Tyneside.

Almost 70 borough-based plumbers have signed a petition – already delivered to the company - urging a rethink.

Many are incensed at the prospect of having to travel out of the borough to get the parts they need from their preferred supplier.

For some, this could mean using the Tyne Tunnel at least four times a day - adding massively to business costs and time.

Despite their campaign, they admit there is little prospect that Plumb Center owner Wolseley will relent and cancel the expected January 12 closure.

Last year, it announced plans to shut 80 stores nationally and shed 800 jobs – and another 18 stores could also now go.

Steve Wilkinson, 45, who runs Hebburn-based Wilkinson Plumbing and Drainage, said: “I’ve been using the South Shields branch for 12 years, and its closure is a real shock.

“I’m told the company expects around 60% of its customers will use the centres in North Tyneside, but that’s just not going to happen. I use the centre four times a day, often for parts that cost about £1.

“You can imagine my costs if I have to pay for those round trips through the tunnel.

“Any extra costs to me would have to be passed on to my customers, which is not what anyone wants.

“This business seems to think it can make more money by dealing with councils where they get big trade – they are doing that at the expense of the little guys.

“There are other parts suppliers in South Tyneside, but this is the one many of us like to use.”

Independent plumber Dave Kirton, 46, added: “We can’t understand why they would close this branch. As far as we know it is meeting all its financial targets.

“We’ve handed our petition to a regional manager, but all he said was that he’ll pass it further up the chain – it’s not looking like the branch will stay open.

“It’s someone in an ivory tower who has looked on a map and failed to realise that the blue line on it is a river.”

Four staff work at the South Shields outlet, in Western Approach.

Wolseley said it had announced a comprehensive transformation plan to improve business efficiency in September 2016.

A spokesman added: “These proposed redundancies are subject to employee consultation and we have commenced discussions with our employees.”