No reprieve for Norbury Park sawmill

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The gates are set to close on the Norbury Park sawmill on Friday April 9th.

Manager Phil Bailey confirmed to the FRA that all the staff are being made redundant by that date, and he will remain for a couple of weeks afterwards to supervise the clearance of timber from the site.

Supporters of the sawmill were hoping that public pressure, in the form of more than 4,300 signatures on a petition opposing closure, might be sufficient for Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust to extend the deadline for shutting the business.

But this was not to be. At a meeting of Surrey’s Cabinet last week council leaders again made clear they regarded the business as loss making.  And they said that even taking it over for a short while from Surrey Wildlife Trust would incur significant cost.

Speaking on Tuesday (April 6) Mr Bailey said:  “I’m very disappointed that Surrey County Council and its councillors have not taken into consideration our recent improved performance and looked at the business as a going concern.

“They have not considered the option of migrating the business seamlessly to somebody else.”

The large workshop where outdoor wood products, such as field gates and signs, are made by hand.
Pictures: Fetcham Residents Association

Mr Bailey fears that with the loss of specialist staff, and no timber on the site, it will be harder to restart the business.

Both Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust, which has been running the business in recent years, maintain that the sawmill is not a core activity for either organisation.

You can read here the full written response to the petition, from Councillor Natalie Bramhall, who is in charge of Surrey’s environment and countryside.

Looking ahead, Councillor Bramhall says in her statement: “The Council has been approached by a number of entities who would like to consider operating wood-based businesses at the site. These offers will be considered as part of plans for the future of the sawmill.

“SCC are keen to support the development of a woodland and rural industry hub that supports traditional techniques, training and volunteering. The Council has already introduced opportunities for the Youth Offending Teams to work at Norbury Park learning woodland craft skills, and research carried out so far shows there is reason to be extremely positive about the benefits the site can continue to provide for business and residents. We expect to consult on proposals at the end of May.”

The current sawmill manager Phil Bailey says he will be making a bid, with others, to run the sawmill as a social enterprise company.  This would include apprenticeships, training and volunteering.

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