UK dairy processor Dairy Crest plans to close a spreads facility in Shropshire as part of a continued drive by the firm to improve efficiencies throughout the business.

Following a two-year strategic review of its spreads manufacturing operations, Dairy Crest said it will stop production at the Crudgington site and consolidate manufacturing of all its retail butters and spreads at another facility in Kirkby in Liverpool. Dairy Crest is also proposing to move its technical development centre from Crudgington to Kirkby, resulting in the closure of the site.

The move will also increase bulk butter production at its Severnside creamery in Gloucestershire will increase.

Around 160 employees will be affected by the closure of Crudgington but Dairy Crest said it hopes “many” will relocate “in due course”.

“Should Crudgington close, we will create around 50 additional roles at Kirkby and around 20 additional roles at Severnside,” the company said. “Consultation processes with the trade unions and employee representatives at Crudgington and the technical development centre will commence shortly.”

If it goes through, the closure will take around 18 to 24 months to implement, Dairy Crest said.

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The union representing workers at the facility, USDAW, argued the decision was “a shock” for members, that it “won’t really have come as a surprise to them”.

“Both Crudgington and Kirkby have been operating under capacity and ever since the review started a couple of years ago, we’ve been aware the company might seek to consolidate spreads manufacturing on just one site,” said area organiser Paul Taylor. “We have feared the worst for Crudgington ever since the announcement to transfer Clover production was made.

Taylor said the union will “examine the company’s business case for the proposal in detail and do all we can to try and save jobs at the site”.

In the circumstances, however, he said “it is likely to prove very difficult”.

“Any closure is unlikely to take place until 2014 at the earliest and we’ll use this short breathing space to do all we can to support members and explore all alternatives to protect their livelihoods.”