Cheese firm rebuilds factory destroyed in fire

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Abergavenny Fine Foods' md Melanie Bowman has brought the company back from the ashes
Abergavenny Fine Foods' md Melanie Bowman has brought the company back from the ashes

Related tags: Factory, Food

Abergavenny Fine Foods opened its new factory on July 7, a year after fire destroyed the company’s goat’s cheese production at Blaenavon, south east Wales.

The business began production at its new £10M manufacturing plant in June, before the facility was officially opened by the Prince of Wales earlier this month.

The firm’s md Melanie Bowman said: “From a business perspective, I think the last 12 months have really highlighted the importance of continuity planning.

“Though we never expected to have to rebuild a manufacturing plant, we had plans in place so that in the event of a facility closure, we could work with third-parties to continue to meet demand.”

The fire at Abergavenny Fine Foods’s former food production unit on July 5 2015, was caused by “undetermined”​ circumstances, according to the South West Fire and Rescue Service.

‘Really devastating’

“The fire was really devastating,”​ said Bowman. “Overnight, our successful family business had been razed to the ground, but we knew that we couldn’t give in.

abergavenny prince of wales
The Prince of Wales officially opened the new factory on July 7

“For our employers and local suppliers, and with our commitment to fulfilling our contracts with retailers, we knew the company had to move forward and quickly.”

The blaze at the company’s site in Blaenavon, Wales, forced employees to relocate, and production continued eight weeks later.

At the time​, Bowman vowed: “We are totally confident that Abergavenny Fine Foods will come back even better and stronger.”

The self-proclaimed ‘largest producer of goat’s cheese in the UK’ received planning permission to rebuild​ its production facility in December 2015.

Six months later the 6,300m2​ facility was completed, and production resumed in Blaenavon. The site was officially opened in July 2016, exactly one year after the previous factory was destroyed in the inferno. The building was constructed in the same location as the scorched remains of the previous factory.

‘Words can’t describe how we felt’

“The last year has been a surreal one for a number of reasons,”​ said Bowman. “Words can’t describe how we felt immediately after the fire.

“It was crushing. But with the support of the local community and our partners, we have seen huge progression in such a short period of time.”

Meanwhile, fire damage continues to haunt food and drink manufacturers. In July 2016, a Morrisons’ bakery in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was severely damaged​ from a large fire. Fifteen fire engines were needed to quell the flames, as the blaze persisted throughout the night.

Almost two weeks later, 10 fire engines were called to a 2 Sisters’ factory in Thetford​, after a fire was reported at 3:07pm, on July 17. The flames caused 270 employees to be evacuated.

Abergavenny fire timeline

  • July 2015 – Fire destroys factory in Blaenavon.
  • November 2015 – Plan developed to rebuild factory
  • December 2015 – Planning permission received
  • June 2016 – Production begins in new facility
  • July 2016 – Facility officially opened

Related topics: Chilled foods

Related news

Show more