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Business and Enterprise Secretary visits Forgemasters

12 July 2007

John Hutton, business and enterprise secretary for Gordon Brown’s new government has visited Sheffield Forgemasters on a post-flood fact-finding mission.

Mr Hutton joined former sports minister Richard Caborn and chief executive of Yorkshire Forward, Tom Riordan and its chairman, Terry Hodgkinson at the 200-year-old company, which suffered devastating damage in the flash flooding in the city earlier this week, to find out what the effects of the disaster are.

The world renowned engineering giant is back on its feet having resumed the majority of its operations and the company's leaders were on hand at the meeting to discuss effects on their production schedule and factors which arose from the massive flooding at the 64 acre site.

Peter Birtles, Director of Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd, said: "John Hutton was clearly eager to glean as much information as possible from us about the impact of the June 25 floods and why the waters caused quite so much damage at this site.

"We have provided him with whatever information we could and also offered our suggestions as to what measures need to be in place to safeguard not only this business, but others located in the Lower Don Valley, should this series of dreadful circumstances present itself again."

Although the huge 10,000 tonne forging press at the company is working again, along with melting and roll making operations back at full production, there are still sections of the site where the clean-up continues.

Peter added: "Sheffield Forgemasters is almost back to full production across the site, but we need key decision makers at central government to recognise the extent of damage caused in such a short time and acknowledge that we cannot sit back and hope the flood was a one-off.

"John Hutton's visit will hopefully ensure that what has happened in this part of Sheffield does not get brushed under the carpet and that the information is used to initiate pro-active discussion at the highest level."

The company has received visits from Prince Charles, Sheffield City Council chief executive Bob Kerslake, Clive Betts MP, David Blunkett MP and leading figures from the Environment Agency, local police and local fire service chiefs in the weeks since the flood.

The site visit formed part of John Hutton's extensive tour of flood-hit business locations in the Sheffield city region.

Forgemasters, which has survived two World Wars, was cut off by torrents of six foot high water at the height of the torrent leaving staff stranded in a two storey building.

More than 50 staff were initially trapped in the Brightside Lane HQ without power and communications however emergency services rescued employees in the early hours via helicopter and boat to leave 30 staff there overnight.