Senator Homes threatens to slash workforce after Cumbrian planners revoke permission to build estate.
Cumbrian housebuilder Senator Homes has warned that it could axe up to 75 staff after a planning dispute prevented it from starting work on 86 houses.

John Purdie, the company's managing director, held a meeting with staff in Carlisle last Wednesday. He said that at least 20 people would certainly have to be made redundant. A consultation process will begin with union UCATT.

Purdie said that the job losses were the direct result of a decision by Copeland council to refuse to give the go-ahead for the housing at Egremont in west Cumbria.

Council planners say that the firm has failed to provide an adequate drainage system, a condition of the planning approval in July 2001.

Purdie said that he had submitted a planning appeal in respect of the discharge of planning conditions and had also written to his local MP, Jack Cunningham, calling for an urgent meeting. He said: "The risk of redundancy to the majority of our workforce in west Cumbria is now significant."

Copeland council has refused to lift the planning conditions, as it is not satisfied with the technical design of the drainage system. Senator says it has made considerable efforts to carry out detailed surveys of the drainage requirements of the site, and maintains that its designs are acceptable.

Purdie said he might begin legal proceedings against the council for financial losses. He said he had also asked for a meeting with Cumbria council, which has a taskforce that deals with job threats.

Purdie said: "As well as directly paid employees, subcontractors that have been associated with Senator Homes for many years will ultimately be adversely affected."

Purdie said the company would be unable to take on school leavers for apprenticeships; it normally hires between 20 and 25 a year.

UCATT northern regional secretary John Scott said that a 30-day consultation process had begun. He said he would work with Senator to try to avoid the redundancies. He added: "I really believe these redundancies can be avoided if a solution can be found with the Copeland planning department."

He noted that if a solution could not be found, the future of the whole Senator Homes company could be under threat.