Community rallies round factory workforce

Fire at the North Bay Pelagic factory in Peterhead
Fire at the North Bay Pelagic factory in Peterhead

The recovery operation following the fire at Northbay Pelagic has begun as government agencies and the local community try to support those affected by the blaze.

Dozens of firefighters tackled the fire at the Peterhead fish processing factory for around 10 hours last Saturday, January 17.

Within hours of the fire being brought under control, demolition work started on the steel frame of the building, with part of the adjacent Kirk Street remaining closed for a number of days.

During Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead announced that government officials were due to meet with Council officers and Scottish Enterprise in the North-east on Friday, adding that Northbay Pelagic is hoping to rebuild the plant as soon as possible.

The Scottish Government has also announced plans to set up a multi-agency task force - which will convene in Aberdeen this Friday - to establish the level of support required from the public sector.

In addition, a site visit by the Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Jim Gifford, the Council Chief Executive and the local authority’s Head of Economic Development to assess the damage has already taken place.

On Wednesday evening (tonight) the fire and subsequent response is due to be discussed by members of Peterhead Community Council, which will be attended by Buchan Area Manager Chris White.

Thereafter, an Employability and Welfare drop-in session is scheduled to be held at the Hot Spot community cafe on Thursday (tomorrow) to offer advice to the workforce of Northbay Pelagic.

Church leaders in Peterhead have also met to discuss how they can support the aid effort for those affected by the fire. The Apex Church food bank, Joseph Storehouse, is to organising a collection between 9.30am and 6pm on Saturday, January 31, at Peterhead’s Morrisons store, where shoppers will be able to buy items along with their usual groceries and then donate them in-store if they wish.

In a comment on the company’s website, Director of Northbay Pelagic Chris Anderson said: “The main processing and packing lines have been lost and the company’s office and administration block has been destroyed. However, key strategic areas of our facility remain fully operational and we continue to service our business and customer needs.

“We are currently looking at all of our options going forward and we will hopefully announce our plan of action soon. In the meantime, we are sourcing temporary accommodation for our administration and management staff and re-establishing daily communications with all of our customers and suppliers.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said: “I very much welcome the formation of a multi-agency taskforce so that everything possible can be done to help the company, employees and other local businesses that have been devastated by this fire.

“Northbay Pelagic is one of the largest fish factories in Scotland and the company employs around 120 full time staff and 100 temporary staff. As the fire has destroyed the processing plant and production line many people will have found themselves out of work and they need to know that they are being supported as effectively as possible.”

Alison McInnes MSP commented: “The damage caused by the fire on Saturday was devastating.

“Thankfully no-one is believed to have been injured. By all accounts the emergency services did an excellent job in the face of a hazardous situation.

“However, these are obviously uncertain times for the hundreds of people who are employed either directly by the company or in the wider supply chain.

“The challenge now for the Scottish Government and others in the public sector is to help in any way possible to assist the company’s recovery and enable it to continue to operate in the short and long-term. This will both protect local jobs and help preserve the town’s status as the largest fishing port in the UK.”