A David and Goliath battle is being played out in East London between the London Development Agency and Britain’s oldest salmon smokery H Forman & Sons, whose future has been put in jeopardy by the capital’s successful Olympic games bid.
Forman, whose current premises are at the centre of the what will be the new Olympic stadium, has to find a new site nearby which will enable it to continue its business supplying many of London’s top restaurants and hotels. But it is in dispute with the London Development Agency (LDA), which it claimed has reneged on an earlier deal to relocate it either to a site in Hackney or to one in Tower Hamlets.
Forman’s md Lance Forman has accused the LDA of failing to secure the land in advance of London winning the Olympics on July 6. Since then, local property prices have rocketed by up to 50%, he claimed, and the LDA now wants his company to move further east where prices are lower.
His is among 308 local companies employing around 11,000 people that will have to relocate, said Forman. His company has been given until July 2007 to vacate its premises, but this means it has just a few months to find a suitable new site if it is to complete the move in time. Forman wants the LDA to pick up the extra costs of moving to its preferred location.
In November 2002 Forman, which began its operations in 1905, relocated “round the corner” to its present 0.75 acre site. This took two years to complete. The £3.5m cost, which received regional selective grant assistance from the LDA, represented the firm’s largest ever investment in a brand new factory using state-of-the-art equipment to meet its planned growth. It now employs around 52 staff.
“Within a year of moving in, the LDA told us we needed to move out,” said Forman. “We need to be close to our customer base - within 45 minutes to an hour.”
The sites in Leyton, Dagenham, Barking and Becton now suggested by the LDA would make it impossible for the company to supply its customers in central London in the very limited time window available once construction of the Olympic site starts, said Forman. “That is going to be an absolute nightmare … for our business it just doesn’t work at all.”
Forman said: “If there is going to be a legacy of jobs from the Olympics, the first thing we’ve got to do is safeguard the jobs that are there at the moment.
“Instead of acting as a business support agency the LDA are acting as hard-nosed developers and that’s not really what they are supposed to be doing.”