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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 20:22 GMT 21:22 UK
Cement workers told 'keep bees'
Blue Circle Weardale plant
The Blue Circle Weardale plant will close in August
Workers losing their jobs at the biggest employer in part of County Durham are being advised to take up bee keeping or arts and crafts.

Blue Circle cement works in Eastgate, Weardale, is due to close next month with the loss of 150 jobs and 3m to the local economy.

The report, commissioned by One NorthEast and written by a London-based consultancy firm, has been strongly criticised.


We are not basket weavers, we are not daffodil growers, we have got people with skills

Billy Wilthew, Blue Circle worker

Its ideas include guest house owners installing saunas to attract Scandinavian tourists, and for the area to cash in on its tenuous links with Mr Bean, whose creator Rowan Atkinson went to school in nearby Durham.

Billy Wilthew, who has worked at Blue Circle since the 1960s, told BBC Look North he was concerned by the report.

"I'm always wary of consultants, but I thought we would get something out of it," he said.

"From what I have heard and what I have seen there is not one sustainable job come out of it.

'Worrying times'

"We are not basket weavers, we are not daffodil growers, we have got people with skills, we have got people who have worked in teams.

"To think that we are now three weeks from closure and not a thing has come out of is worrying."

Local councillor John Shuttleworth said tourism does not offer the kind of jobs Weardale needs.

'Far reaching'

"If there are any jobs created they won't be 'real' jobs, they will be part-time jobs or temporary and it is 'real' jobs we need."

But Dr John Bridge - chairman of development agency One NorthEast and head of the Weardale Taskforce - said there was a lot more to the report.

He told BBC Look North the report - which cost a "few tens of thousands of pounds" - was far reaching.

'Better transport'

"We asked the consultants to come up with a wide range of ideas that did relate to tourism, the development of natural resources in the dale and new business opportunities.

"In the report are ideas about new business development, providing a better ITC infrastructure and better transport systems in the dale.

"We are now putting them into a series of proposals to take out into the local community."

See also:

08 Jan 01 | Business
11 Sep 00 | Business
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