£95m factory will make enough bricks for 22,500 homes a year

Europe’s biggest brick factory should be up and running by the end of next year, despite the problems caused by almost a year of lockdown restrictions.

Forterra, which has around a third of the UK brick and aerated concrete block market, said it was on track to commission the new factory in Desford, Leicestershire, in late 2022.

Last autumn the £95 million factory construction suffered a setback after a manufacturing equipment supplier went into administration.

Forterra, which is based in Northampton, said after retendering, new contracts for the supply and installation of the manufacturing equipment were signed this month.

The business is the country’s second biggest brick maker with nine brick factories, making around 590 million bricks a year.

It had annual revenues of £380 million pre-pandemic which it said dropped by £90 million in 2020. Manufacturing briefly stopped last March when the first UK lockdown was imposed.

In a trading update the business said despite the big hit it took from Covid-19 – which saw it announce 225 job cuts in June – an upturn in the construction sector had improved sales.

It said: “Our current priority remains ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees through the ongoing pandemic.

“Our factories remain open, operating in accordance with Covid-19 protocols, and we continue to supply our customers who, under current lockdown restrictions, remain fully operational.

“We are pleased to report that the strong trading seen through September and October continued through to the end of the year, exceeding our expectations.

“Brick and block revenues for November and December combined were 6 per cent higher than the corresponding prior year period taking full year Group revenues to approximately £290 million.”

It said it expected pre-tax profits of £16 million for the year.

As of December 31, the group had access to £170 million in credit, of which £155 million was undrawn.

An old Forterra brick kiln is demolished as part of its rebuilding
(Image: Leicester Mercury / Chris Gordon)

The new state-of-the-art Desford plant will be capable of firing up to 180 million bricks a year.

Forterra is replacing its existing factory at its Desford site with a vast new shed housing two massive kilns, more than doubling production.

Forterra – or at least its earlier incarnations – has been digging clay out of the ground at Desford since the mid-60s.

The first factory had been unused for the past 30-or-so-years – replaced in the 1980s by one that can make up to 85 million bricks a year.

The new plant will be used to feed the housing boom expected when the pandemic is over or under control – producing enough bricks each year to build 22,500 homes – was well as build factories, schools and hospitals up and down the county.

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