Greggs Rise to the Challenge

Posted by editor on September 29, 2009 under Business, training and employment

With their new factory now officially open, Greggs the Bakers renew their commitment to east Manchester

Greggs Bakery now open in Openshaw

Greggs Bakery now open in Openshaw

In a collection of old industrial buildings next to the Ashton Canal, Greggs had been making bread and confectionery in east Manchester for more than half a century. Countless loaves, rolls, cakes and doughnuts have been dispatched from their Parrot Street factory in Clayton in the last 50-odd years.

Kevin Noden: "Everything is better about the new place."

Kevin Noden: "Everything is better about the new place."

It should be no surprise, then, that when the bakers decided to expand, New East Manchester (with the North West Development Agency and Manchester City Council) put together a package to encourage them to stay in the area.

Now, with their brand new factory officially opened today [28th September], the master bakers are ready to show off their state-of-the-art facilities to the throng of TV and radio crews, journalists and photographers who have descended on Greenside Street in Openshaw.

Susan Duffy: "I love it!"

Susan Duffy: "I love it!"

“It’s so much better here,” says Susan Duffy from Beswick who has been pulled off her cake-making duties to feature in the official photocall, “the place is just brilliant. I love it!” When she left school over 12 years ago, Susan started work for Greggs at their Beswick precinct shop. “After two years there, I fancied a change,” she says, “so I moved to the Clayton factory. First I was on dispatch and now I’m on cakes..”

She’s not the only one happy in her work. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” says one man in dispatch. “It’s one big happy family,” says the lady dipping buns into icing.

Bakery manager, Peter Birch, confirms there’s a very positive attitude amongst the staff which has only improved since their move to Openshaw. “We’ve always had an exceptionally low staff turnover,” he says. “We’ve had one employee retire recently after clocking up nearly 50 years service.”

Dispatch is now electronically controlled

Greggs in east Manchester supplies nearly 150 shops across the North West

Peter himself is a relative newcomer, “I’ve only been with the company for nine months. My first job when I arrived was to facilitate the changeover from the old to the new factory.”

It’s been a gradual process. The new factory was originally occupied in February and then, over a three month period, more and more of the production has moved to the new site.

“Logistically it’s been quite a challenge,” admits Peter, “there’s been a lot of day-to-day planning involved. At one point, we had the vans picking up some lines from the old factory and then different lines over here, but all our 150 shops continued to get the goods their customers needed.”

Greggs in east Manchester supplies nearly 150 shops across the North West

Dispatch is now electronically controlled

New ovens have been installed and existing ones refurbished so the factory has the capacity to increase the number of stores it supplies. Currently one of 10 national divisions, Greggs in east Manchester services shops as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent, Blackpool and across to the Yorkshire border.

“We could easily supply another 70 shops from this factory,” continues Peter, “and, looking to the future, there is adjacent land here we could expand onto.” Which all means extra local jobs for east Manchester.

Mary Houlihan: "These 'long tins' are one of our biggest selling lines."

Mary Houlihan: "These 'long tins' are one of our biggest selling lines."

Over on one of the travelling ovens – where the loaf is baked as it sits on a conveyor –is yet another worker full of praise for the new working environment. “It’s been like starting a new job,” says Mary Houlihan, as she stacks the ‘long tin’ loaves, “but you already know everybody!”

Norman’s Big Move

Posted by editor on June 9, 2009 under Housing

After nearly 45 years Norman Gurley has moved from his two-up, two-down terraced house on Toxteth Street, Openshaw.

He is one of the first occupants of 83 new homes built by Lovell in the first phase of the Housing Market Renewal Programme in the Toxteth Street area. Over the next few years, street after street of terraced housing will be demolished and replaced with energy-efficient, secure homes with gardens and car parking.

Norman was first featured in East magazine watching the progress of his new house being built. Take a look at his new place in this short slideshow.

Don’t forget to turn the volume up on your computer.

Branching Out

Posted by editor on April 1, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community, Environment

Len Grant reports on the fall and rise of an allotment society where there are plans to grow more than just carrots and turnips.

A warm welcome

“My dad had been coming down here for 30 years. It was the only thing he ever did, the only thing left. Then developers decided they wanted the site for houses. A compulsory purchase order was slapped on the allotments and everyone seemed to just give up. Dad told me to sell his tools.”

This is when Patrick Maher decided to get involved and help to save the Edge Lane Allotments Society in Openshaw. He took over one of the derelict plots and began working with the remaining plot-holders to fight for the 4-acre site.

“We had to prove the community wanted to keep the site, which of course they did, and finally, by bringing in new members and working with the council’s allotment staff, we fought off the closure threat. Now, nearly two years on, it’s gone from being a wasteland to a thriving community resource.”

Sharron Comer tried unsuccessfully to find a plot on other sites before taking a look at Edge Lane.

Sharon: "Home grown tastes so much better."

Sharon: "Home grown tastes so much better."

“It was just a patch of barren land, full of weeds when I first saw it,” she recalls. “There was no fencing, no sheds, nothing. That was over two years ago and for the first year I had to weed the plot top to bottom.”

Since then Sharron has laid paths, installed new glass in a derelict greenhouse, planted fruit trees, dug a pond and constructed a summerhouse for her daughter. “It’s great for the kids, they love coming down and helping out. And they will eat all the vegetables because they are the ones who’ve grown them.”Grown from seed

Now Sharron grows all the regular allotment fare: carrots, cabbage, broccoli, turnips swedes, potatoes, parsnips, cucumber, tomatoes, as well as melons, grapes, apples, pears, raspberries, red, black and white currants, blueberries, and gooseberries. Her plot hardly seems large enough to fit it all in. But, not only does she grow enough produce for her own family, but there’s always extra to swap with others.

“Apart from a couple of months in the winter, I never buy anything from the supermarket,” she says. “Home grown tastes so much better. Our carrots are sweeter, our cabbages softer. Supermarket food has travelled for four weeks before it reaches the shelves, so it’s hardly fresh.”

Not since the second world war, when growing you own was pretty much mandatory, has the demand for allotments been so great. Back then there were 1.4 million plots but, through the 60s and 70s, as food became cheaper and the lure of the supermarket stronger, allotment sites were sold off because there was no one to work them.

Edge Lane Allotments

Edge Lane Allotments

Now, with a shift towards environmentally-friendly food, the allotment is popular again. It is estimated that 330,000 people have allotments in the UK with another 100,000 on waiting lists.

“We’ve got 88 plots here,” says Patrick, “and at least another 20 families waiting to get one.”

But Patrick and his green-fingered colleagues are not content with merely reaping the fruits of their labour for themselves. They have their own big plans for development.

“There’s an area by the entrance that needs clearing,” he says enthusiastically. “That can be used for any number of community groups or schools for project work on healthy eating or sustainability. We’ve got a classroom facility too, so there can be a more formal setting if that’s needed.”

The allotment society has already made links with Discus, a youth project in nearby Beswick. “We’re not all bright academics but when you see the sense of achievement on those young people’s faces when they have cleared a site, that’s very rewarding.”

Patrick with his dad, Billy

Patrick with his dad, Billy

Patrick would like to see more disenfranchised young people working the land learning the ropes from older horticulturalists. There’s a funding application pending for a carpentry workshop for young people to make bird boxes and hanging baskets. And, with some of the plots home to donkeys, poultry and even racing pigeons, there’s even potential for husbandry skills to be passed to a younger generation. “If a young person is coming on here every day to look after the animals, then they’re not on the streets getting into trouble.

“This is not the old school allotment,” says Patrick. “This year, we’re going to offer as many different services as possible to as many groups as possible. The more people we can get involved, the better.

Seventy year-old Billy Maher is back on his plot, just as Patrick remembers. “Dad has somewhere to come now. He swears that working on the land has kept him going.”

If your school or community group would like to find out more about the Edge Lane Allotment Society then contact Patrick Maher at