Business boost for Alcan site

A NEW dawn is breaking for Lynemouth’s axed smelter site as a new business moves in.

The former Rio Tinto Alcan plant, which ended its main operations last May, has now welcomed its first tenant.

Aartoft Ltd, which makes concrete bathroom pods for large buildings such as hotels and student accommodation, has relocated to the site from Cramlington, where it has been based since 2003.

The business currently employs 25 people, but the move to Lynemouth will provide additional space and enable it to potentially double the workforce when economic conditions allow.

The company has taken about 18,000 sq ft of space in the former smelter’s garage facility.

And bosses say the previous occupiers have left a solid base to build on their work.

Aartoft Managing Director Niels Sandahl said: “This is an outstanding location and we are delighted to be the first tenant.

“It is a secure, controlled environment, with great facilities and transport links. What is of real added value to a small company such as ours is that the whole site benefits from the culture that only a multi-national company such as Rio Tinto can bring.

“For example, health and safety is the number one priority and you can tell that staff awareness in this area is extremely high. On a more practical level, we benefit from the fact that there are already cranes on site, which will prove invaluable when it comes to moving ready mixed concrete as part of our manufacturing process.”

Rio Tinto Regional Economic Development Director John McCabe said: “We are delighted to welcome Aartoft to Lynemouth.

“It is a local company that has worked on some great contracts in the past and while the construction sector is not without its problems, its management team is very focused and sees the advantages of being based at our site.”

Mr McCabe is tasked with bringing more job opportunities to the whole site in the wake of the smelter closure and promoting it to other businesses, but he said offers will be considered carefully to make sure they will be of benefit to the community.

“The ultimate aim of the RED programme is to attract new investment and jobs to this site. This may involve several businesses taking over some of our buildings or land and using them for different purposes,” he said.

“It is essential we attract the right kind of investment to the site. We will scrutinise very carefully the expressions of interest we receive because we want to ensure our place is taken at Lynemouth by a business or businesses that share our values and commitment to the local economic community.”

He added: “The site contains a number of buildings that could be put to other uses and it has excellent utility connections and transport infrastructure being so close to two major ports, Newcastle International Airport and the A1.

“We will also remind potential investors that one of the main reasons the former Alcan built a smelter in Northumberland in the first place is due to its close proximity to a dedicated and committed workforce.”

News of the Aartoft move follows an announcement last month that Rio Tinto had agreed a deal to sell its neighbouring power station to energy company RWE.