Hope returns to BAE Brough as site sale aims to 'generate jobs'
NEW jobs and investment could soon be winging their way to Brough after BAE Systems announced it was selling part of its Skillings Lane site to Bridgehouse Capital.
BAE, which currently employs 995 people in Brough, has taken on a ten-year lease to remain at the site.
However, the company says it hopes to remain in Brough for much longer, with contracts secured last year to provide Hawk trainer jets, technical support and parts to countries including Saudi Arabia creating work at the site.
Steve Timms, managing director of BAE Systems' defence information, training and services, said: "We will be looking to stay at Brough beyond those ten years.
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"We are very excited by this as it brings in a third party looking to generate employment in facilities we no longer use.
"We have already seen that with Cablescan, which is currently in a temporary factory but will be moving into the Enterprise Zone shortly.
"The company has already created ten jobs as a result."
He said he and Chris Boardman, managing director for military, air and information, had made a commitment to maintain manufacturing at the site and mitigate job losses.
Mr Timms said: "At the same time, we said we were developing Hawk opportunities throughout the world, which could create work for the Brough site.
"We have worked very hard to do so, and of the 899 potential job losses announced 18 months ago, that figure is down to about 60.
"Without the contracts secured last year, the story could have been very different."
BAE is now working with Bridgehouse to develop the site, in particular working together to attract new business to the Brough Enterprise Zone.
A Bridgehouse spokesman said: "Brough is an exciting opportunity for us. This will allow us to continue working alongside BAE Systems which has retained a long-term commitment to a significant part of the site, while releasing part of the site that requires new investment in order to attract new operational occupiers.
"This, in turn, will create a significant amount of new direct and indirect employment and economic opportunities.
"As a global investor involved in multiple sectors, we are very positive as to the prospects of regenerating the former BAE Systems space into vibrant, new employment accommodation in partnership with BAE Systems and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)."
The news was revealed to employees yesterday morning.
However, while further investment and new jobs have been welcomed, employees say the announcement failed to answer pressing concerns about their future.
Roy Cartwright, full-time works union convenor, has worked at BAE Brough for more than 40 years.
He said: "Everybody is a bit numb really because nobody really knows what the announcement means.
"The long and short of it is the company has again failed to talk to the trade unions.
"When they did the presentations yesterday morning, there were no answers.
"We have been walking around the site trying to reassure people that this could be good news but we don't know that ourselves as the company has not given us a proper briefing.
"All we know is the site that has been ours since the days of Robert Blackburn is now owned by Bridgehouse."
Mr Cartwright said unions were now trying to arrange a meeting at a senior level "to get some clarity about what is going on".
"To be fair to the site management at Brough, this wasn't a site decision," he said.
"We have been working closely with Jim Welsh, the site director at Brough, but to get answers, we need to go to people further up the chain.
"If Bridgehouse attracts new businesses and jobs to the site so that skills here are not lost then we should be celebrating as it is great news but, as it is, the announcement has caused a lot of anxiety as it has created more questions than it's answered."
MPs David Davis and Alan Johnson have long been championing the need to preserve skills and jobs at BAE Brough, and gave a cautious welcome to the news.
However, they criticised the way BAE had "inadequately consulted the people whose futures are tied up in these decisions".
Mr Davis said: "This looks, on the face of it, to be a good thing as previously BAE's property department was dealing with the site. With the best will in the world, I doubt it is best placed to promote the Enterprise Zone.
"Bridgehouse seems to specialise in maximising the benefits of Enterprise Zone, and their plans to bring new investment to the site can only be good news.
"But the downside is the way BAE has handled it yet again. In terms of sheer incompetence with regards to consulting with workers, they really are setting new standards.
"Here is a company that used to have a fantastic relationship with the Brough workforce – in my experience, it was unparalleled.
"Quite frankly they have frittered that away."
Mr Davis said he and Mr Johnson would be speaking to Bridgehead in the coming weeks to properly establish its plans for Brough.
"Bridgehead's involvement probably gives us the best chance of attracting new investment and jobs to the site.
"Essentially, I think this is good news but we need to press the matter."
The Chancellor announced plans for 21 enterprise zones across England as part of the 2011 Budget.
Designed to stimulate the local economy and attract new businesses, the zones offer incentives such as tax breaks, reduced planning restrictions, and financial assistance for plant and machinery.
The Humber LEP succeeded in securing the country's largest enterprise zones, which are located around Green Port Hull, the south bank and Brough.
Lord Haskins, chairman of the Humber LEP, said: "Our priority with the Brough enterprise zone is to create sustainable skilled employment.
"The enterprise zone status is there to help attract new companies to the site. We will look to meet with Bridgehouse shortly to continue the progress we have made with BAE Systems and East Riding Council."
Alan Menzies, director of planning and economic regeneration at East Riding Council, said: "This is a positive move by BAE Systems and the council is looking forward to working closely with Bridgehouse Capital to develop the Brough site, which has the potential for substantial job creation."