Plans for 1,000 skilled jobs at new TopHat factory in Corby indefinitely 'on ice' after modular house builder looks to cut costs

The town had been counting on the jobs
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Plans to bring 1,000 skilled jobs to Corby have been put on hold after a modular housing company tightened its belt.

TopHat had promised that its new factory would open in late 2023 in Corby in a huge unit at the brand new Magna Park development at Cowthick Plantation.

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The opening date was pushed back to this year, but now the Northants Telegraph has learned that the plan has been dropped and every member of the Corby team employed to get the project under way has been laid off.

Homes England, a Government quango, had made a £15m loan facility available to TopHat to help fund its expansion. It’s not known how much of this loan, if any, has been drawn down.

The news comes weeks after TopHat laid off 70 people – a third of its workforce – at its factory in Derbyshire.

It’s a huge blow for Corby which has 21 per cent of its population working in unskilled, low-paid jobs, compared to an England average of 11 per cent.

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About a quarter of the town’s working age population is employed in manufacturing.

TopHat had been due to move into Magna Park in Corby. Image: National WorldTopHat had been due to move into Magna Park in Corby. Image: National World
TopHat had been due to move into Magna Park in Corby. Image: National World

The Corby factory was due to produce 4,000 houses per year and the company had already placed on order 59 hi-tech robots from German manufacturer Kuka Robotics for the site.

The revelation also means that none of the seven planned units at the 200-acre site – one of the largest logistics parks in the UK – have yet been let. Big sheds of this size attract huge business rates which help boost local council coffers.

A spokesman on behalf of GLP, which owns Magna Park, said: “As previously announced, GLP has agreed a lease with TopHat in Corby. We don’t comment on specific matters relating to our clients.”

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TopHat posted major losses in each of the past two financial years. Last year it attracted £70m in investment from Persimmon, Aviva and Goldmann Sachs. Then in November 2023, Homes England extended a £15m loan facility to the firm, despite being burned to the tune of £64.5m it loaned failed modular house-builder Ilke Homes.

TopHat has declined to comment when approached twice by this newspaper, but insiders have said that the project is ‘indefinitely’ delayed.

When its recent round of redundancies were announced, the firm said: “The changes are a prudent step to ensure the business maintains current delivery levels during 2024 and is well positioned for growth as the market returns.

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“The medium and long-term need for volumetric modular homes is becoming ever clearer as traditional build capacity is constrained by the growing skills shortage. While cost cutting is always tough, these changes will put TopHat in pole position for growth when demand rebounds.”

Just last month chairman Carl Leaver, who has repeatedly proclaimed that the future of UK housing lies in modular building, told the House of Lords’ Built Environment Committee that the Government’s plan for the sector was ‘in disarray’.

The company has had the support of Corby MP Tom Pursglove who visited the site as recently as December just as fit-out was due to start.

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