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Tue May 21 2024

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TopHat confirms new factory put on hold

26 Mar Volumetric modular housing manufacturer TopHat has confirmed an indefinite postponement of the opening of its new factory in Corby.

TopHat's Dove Valley Park factory in Foston
TopHat's Dove Valley Park factory in Foston

TopHat has invested millions in a new factory that was intended to increase its production capacity from 800 units a year, which it currently builds in Dove Valley Park, near Derby, to 4,800 units.

It is now on ice and all staff involved with the project let go.

The new factory in Corby was TopHat’s route from perpetual losses to eventually perhaps turning a profit. Major shareholders  Goldman Sachs, Persimmon and Aviva Capital Partners are evidently now getting the jitters.

The Corby plant, on the new Magna Park development, was originally supposed to start production in 2023. The opening was then put back to an unspecified date in 2024.

Orders have been placed for 59 manufacturing robots from German manufacturer Kuka Robotics, although none have yet been delivered.

The Northamptonshire Telegraph has reported that every member of the Corby team employed to get the project under way has now been laid off.

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Confirming that report, a TopHat spokesperson told us today: "TopHat continues to believe it will only be through bringing volumetric factories of the scale of Corby on stream that the UK will be able to solve its long term housing crisis. However, the short term market conditions mean it is prudent to pause now with the building almost complete but no equipment yet on site. We continue to develop our pipeline and will monitor conditions closely to restart when it is right to do so."

This new comes just a few weeks after TopHat laid off 70 people – a third of its workforce – at its Dove Valley factory.

TopHat’s most recent accounts show a £20m pre-tax loss on £10m of sales.

Last November it received a £15m government loan from Homes England.

Homes England had previously lent Ilke Homes £60m, leaving the state oput of pocket when Ilke collapsed last year.

Homes England chief executive Peter Denton explained at the time why he thought TopHat was worth a punt with taxpayers’ money: “This funding will support TopHat to manufacture more than four times the number of new homes it currently can each year. Not only will this significantly increase the delivery capacity of the MMC sector as a whole in the UK, it will also create 1,000 jobs. It is vital we continue to support innovations that promote a diverse, efficient homebuilding sector. This is about a long-term commitment to driving forward the creation of quality, thriving places for people to live and work.”

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