Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Jobs hope at former Burberry site

There was a high profile campaign to save jobs before the factory closed.

A £3.6m investment at a former Burberry site in Rhondda, south Wales could bring hundreds of jobs, the Welsh economy minister is to announce.

The clothing company shut its Treorchy base in March 2007 with the loss of 300 jobs, despite a high-profile campaign to retain the 68-year-old factory.

The site is to be refurbished and made into a business centre with 15 units aimed at local small businesses.

The project was devised by two businessmen, with European backing.

Robert Kearns and Michael Henderson have invested their own money in Parc Busnes Treorchi, which has received £2m from the Convergence European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government.

It also received £118,550 backing from the Heads of the Valleys programme for site preparation works.

'Jobs are always welcome'

Following the closure of Burberry, the clothing firm agreed to donate £1.5m over 10 years to a trust set up to help train and educate those hit by the loss of the factory. Former employee and Rhondda Trust board member Joan Young said although many people had found new jobs, a lot were part-time.

She worked as a carer for seven months before an injury forced her to stop, and she is about to start a seasonal job over the Christmas period. She said of the planned scheme: "I can't see sewing jobs coming back there again but any sort of employment would be welcome.

"As long as it's jobs - I can't even say well-paid jobs because we were only on minimum wage at the factory. Smaller units may be better than a large factory trying to offer 300 jobs. The youngsters need to find jobs when they leave school."

Mrs Young, who lives just down the street from the site, added: "It's exciting to hear that something is coming there - jobs are always welcome."

Mr Kearns and his partner were "delighted" the assembly government had chosen to support the venture.

"This exciting new development is a perfect example of how the public and private sector in Wales can work hand in hand to re-vitalise sites abandoned by multinationals in favour of cheap labour overseas," he said.

"We are confident that smaller units with shorter tenancy options and competitive rates will attract a range of local businesses to the site."

Work will start on the redevelopment in December.

Mr Henderson added: "The new business park will be specifically designed with small local businesses in mind.

Increased prosperity

"Being Rhondda born and bred, I am particularly pleased to see this new project get off the ground and create much needed jobs in Rhondda Cynon Taf."

Economy Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said Rhondda had been dealt an enormous blow when Burberry closed.

"Now, the site will provide new, sustainable employment opportunities, created through partnership working across the public and private sector to support local businesses and entrepreneurs which, in turn, will bring increased prosperity to the whole community.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant and AM Leighton Andrews were part of a worldwide campaign to keep the factory open, which was backed by a number of Welsh stars including actor and Burberry model Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Ifans and opera singer Bryn Terfel.

Mr Bryant said: "Burberry were wrong to close the Treorchy factory, but I'm very pleased that the site is now being redeveloped and new jobs will come to the Rhondda in its place."

Mr Andrews added: "Treorchy and Treherbert were included by the Labour assembly government in the Heads of the Valleys programme when the factory was designated for closure.

"It is good to see this additional investment coming through."

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