Iconic Lancaster brickworks to be mothballed as housebuilding slump hits demand

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A brickmaking firm is to mothball its plant in Claughton due to decreasing demand.

Forterra has announced it will temporarily close the brick manufacturing plant after its third quarter trading update revealed its year-end profits are expected to fall short of predictions.

Although demand for bricks increased in May and June, dispatches in July and August were 16 per cent lower than June and 28 per cent lower than the same period last year.

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Forterra also temporarily closed another of its factories earlier in the year in a bid to save £10m.

The Forterra site at Claughton is to be mothballed.The Forterra site at Claughton is to be mothballed.
The Forterra site at Claughton is to be mothballed.

Forterra said: “Consultation is currently under way on the mothballing of a further brick factory at Claughton in Lancashire along with cuts to production in our Aircrete business.

“The market weakness seen in recent months, coupled with the lead time associated with efficiently reducing production, will lead to our inventory build in 2023 being higher than previously anticipated.

“Looking ahead we expect to manage our operations on the assumption that 2024 demand will be at a similar level to 2023 and, accordingly we will look to align production output with this level of sales, thereby limiting further inventory growth.

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“Growing political focus on increasing housing supply ahead of a general election reinforces the board’s confidence in the long-term industry fundamentals and the board remains confident that the group remains well placed to benefit when market demand recovers.”

The firm said it would have to “align production levels with market demand”.

Bricks have been made at the Claughton site for around 180 years.

It was previously mothballed in 2010 after a fall in demand for bricks caused former owner Hanson to close with the loss of 28 jobs.

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The site features Europe’s only industrial aerial ropeway, which transports 300 tonnes of clay each day to a brickworks 1.75 miles (2.8km) away.

Built in 1924, the ropeway, which goes across the A683 between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale, is made of 25mm-thick steel and is carried above ground on trestles without using any power.

Forterra has been contacted for further comment on the effect the decision will have on its staff.