Company run by Heather Mills wants to buy Coty factory

An aerial view of the Coty site in Seaton Delaval.
An aerial view of the Coty site in Seaton Delaval.

The identity of the person seeking to buy the Coty factory in Seaton Delaval was revealed during a debate in Parliament on Monday night.

And if Heather Mills is able to purchase the site, the former model who was married to Sir Paul McCartney will support people in the North East in the same sector as her successful business.

She has been making waves in recent years as a vegan entrepreneur and her VBites company, which has been pioneering plant-based alternatives to meat, fish and dairy for 25 years, acquired the former Walkers Snacks factory in Peterlee last year.

The business is aiming to make the Coty facility its fourth factory and after mentioning this at the start of the debate, Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell has called on the Government to provide support.

The beauty company announced in 2017 that it would close its operations in the area, following a review of global manufacturing operations.

Ms Mills said: “If we can get this factory for the right price, it would be a big boost for the area.

“As well as the VBites products, the site would be an incubator for entrepreneurs in the region with plant-based concepts through VBites Ventures as we would handle manufacturing and distribution – and this is very important at a time when the major supermarket chains are buying British in a big way.

“Hopefully, we can get some support to put pressure on Coty.”

“During the debate, Mr Campbell said: “The factory has been standing empty since it closed. I do not know whether it has deteriorated, but I am told that it is still in good shape.

“Heather Mills, who, as everyone will know, was married to Paul McCartney, is becoming a very decent and entrepreneurial businesswoman.

“Vegan food might not be appetising to some of us in this Chamber, but it certainly is among the young people.

“There were a lot of jobs in the factory when it was run by Coty and Procter & Gamble, and they were all lost – at least 500 permanent and a lot of part-time jobs.

“Those jobs were not replaced, but I understand that most of the older men got redundancy. I am not saying it was a bad deal. They got a good redundancy package, and most of them went on to get a job – that was the last information I had.

“I do not know what the owners are asking for the factory, but I know it is a lot.

“I am told that the main factory, which is good and has been invested in, would provide from 500 to more than 600 jobs for those preparing the food.

“Seaton Delaval went through a bad patch last year when it lost all those jobs, especially the part-time ones. It wants them back.

“I would like to see the Government giving a bit of encouragement and help.”

In response, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said: “He (Mr Campbell) brings new information to me and to my Department about the interest of Heather Mills in acquiring the site for one of the exciting new businesses of the future, providing vegan food.

“I will certainly agree to go away with my team and make contact with Heather Mills.

“It is a new opportunity for the site and to create the desperately needed, secure, highly paid jobs that for me, as the Northern Powerhouse minister, are about delivering the Northern Powerhouse.

“I worked very closely with people on a cross-party basis to secure what I am certain is a hugely exciting devolution opportunity for the boroughs north of the Tyne that, across the lifetime of the deal, will see £600million invested in the area.

“I hope that he will reach out to the Mayor, Norman Redfearn, who was appointed temporarily until elections next May.

“The fact that no-one has yet been elected should not discourage the hon. Gentleman from talking to the north of Tyne boroughs and the combined authority about ways in which they can lever in some of the £600 million – £20 million a year – that they are going to receive as part of this exciting deal.”