Blackpool truckers plead: 'Don't drive our jobs away' after HGV firm faces move out of town

Blackpool truck drivers fear that up to 100 jobs could be lost to the town if their company is forced to move.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 1:08 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 3:23 pm

The drivers at Fox Brothers which has a site at Squires Gate Industrial Estate say they have been warned by bosses that the firm may have to shift its haulage side of the business out of the resort following failure to get retrospective planning permission for operations at the site.

The application to house 67 wagons there plus a workshop and concrete mixing centre was rejected by Blackpool Council early in June.

Neighbours from areas such as Oakwood Close had sent in 40 letters of objection to the plans and had complained about noise from a concrete crusher and other machinery and dust.

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Drivers Jordan Dempsey and Keith Thirsk at the Fox Brothers' site.  The drivers there fear they will lose their jobs if the firm has to quit Blackpool aft5er losing a planning application to operate from its Squires Gate Industrial Estate site
Drivers Jordan Dempsey and Keith Thirsk at the Fox Brothers' site. The drivers there fear they will lose their jobs if the firm has to quit Blackpool aft5er losing a planning application to operate from its Squires Gate Industrial Estate site

In making their recommendation for refusal, council planners said: “The adverse environmental and social impacts of the proposal are considered to outweigh the economic benefits.”

Now the drivers are worried that if the firm has to move away from the town, many of them will lose their jobs.

Spokesman Keith Thirsk, who has been an HGV driver there for seven years, said: “This is very worrying for all of us and is affecting our families too.

“The vast majority of the drivers will not be able to travel as they only have one car and their families need to use it. They cannot afford a second one.

The firm said it had made efforts to cut noise and dust, but neighbours complained to the council

“Many of us are ex-soldiers and some of them need that support network. We have all had friends lost to post traumatic stress disorder and we need to stick together and support each other. It is like a family.

“If the firm has to move to Leyland that support network will be broken up. Fox Brothers has been in Blackpool for years and it would be a shame if it left.

“It would be a loss of 100 local jobs and there is a firm that comes in at weekends to clean the wagons that would go too.

“The company sponsors local football teams and does charity work in town and all that could be lost too.

Now concrete crushing machinery has been removed and the frim is considering its options on where to store its HGVs. The firm has another site at Leyland.

“I understand why people might have complained, but the company has made great efforts to reduce noise.

“We are normally finished at 5pm and it is other trucks from other firms visiting the industrial estate after that.

“The speed bumps do cause noise from the deliveries and we make sure we drive well below the speed limit of 20mph.

“The concrete crusher was removed from the site some time ago and so it is just the parking of trucks there. We don’t want the firm to have to leave Blackpool.”

A spokesman for Fox Brothers confirmed that the drivers were gathered together and warned that the firm may have to leave Blackpool if no solution could be found.

He said: “We are considering what our options are going forward. One of them would be moving to an area outside of Blackpool. We have started consultations with the employees to see what impact the various options would have on them, but no decisions have been made yet.”

He added that the firm, which employs 115, did not want to leave the area and that no decision on whether to appeal against the planning ruling had yet been made.

Fox Brothers was established in 1932 and specialises in the supply and haulage of aggregates, recycled materials, muck-shift, earthworks and civil engineering projects. It took on the Squires Gate site in 2019 as its fleet of vehicles grew.

It operates from two locations in Blackpool and has a sister site in Leyland. Its headquarters office is on the Whitehills Business Park.

The drivers have written to Blackpool South Conservative MP Scott Benton to ask for his support.

Mr Benton said: “Fox Brothers supports over 100 local people and it is vital that we keep these jobs in Blackpool, but the rights of residents also need to be respected too.

“I’m aware of the concerns of local residents with regards to the noise and dust created by the operations at the site and it was important that these were recognised and addressed as part of the planning process.

“I would urge the council to work constructively with Fox Brothers to try and reach a solution which is acceptable to residents and which allows the business to remain within Blackpool.”

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said: “Fox Brothers commenced this development at the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone without planning permission.

“Since that time both the Environment Agency and the Council have received a large number of complaints about the noise and dust from local residents and businesses.

“Council officers tried to work with Fox Brothers to reach a mutually acceptable solution but were unable to do so.

"As a result, and in light of over 40 objections formally lodged raising concerns in relation to environmental contamination, air pollution, extreme noise from a concrete crusher and other heavy machinery, and the noise of 60+ wagons starting up early in the morning, Blackpool Planning Committee refused Fox Bros application for retrospective planning permission.

“The adverse environmental and social impacts of their operation unfortunately outweighed the economic benefits to the Enterprise Zone. However, the council is willing to work with Fox Bros to keep this successful business trading on the Fylde Coast and help them to find an alternative suitable location for their business in order to secure and protect their employees jobs locally.”

“The Enterprise Zone has set out a 25 year masterplan to make Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone a premier business location in the North West and is regarded as an important strategic economic site for Lancashire that supports our key industry sectors.

Therefore it is crucial that new businesses moving onto the EZ seek the correct planning permission and that any conditions are adhered to before commencing works or occupying land.

“There is a dedicated EZ team that is available at Blackpool Council to help any business with their relocation process and can be contacted on 0808 164 4922.”

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Blackpool haulage company loses planning battle after noise dispute