INTERNATIONAL clothing brand Fat Face has become the first company to sign up to a long-awaited business park – providing a huge boost to the local economy.
Fat Face, which originally started in the French Alps in 1988 and now has more than 200 stores, was yesterday announced as the first big name to move into the Dunsbury Hill Farm site, which borders Purbrook and Leigh Park, near the A3(M). The business park is owned by Portsmouth City Council and has been planned for around a decade.
Council leader Donna Jones, who is also a director of the Solent LEP which put £5m into building the site’s access road, said: ‘This will give confidence to other key people to sign on the dotted line. We built that road at risk, albeit a calculated risk, and to secure Fat Face which is synonymous with good quality and is also a company with its head office in the Solent region, is excellent news.’
Fat Face’s infrastructure director Simon Ratcliffe said the company will move into a 120,000sq ft distribution centre, giving it space to grow. He said the move will create 50 new jobs by Christmas but there is potential for hundreds more as the firm expands.
Mr Ratcliffe said: ‘We could have gone anywhere but we have enjoyed the support of the local community for over 15 years now. We absolutely respect the staff we have in the distribution centre – their productivity and commitment. We wanted to maintain that crew.’
Fat Face has 100 staff in its current distribution centre in Ridgeway, Havant, and that will increase to 150 at Christmas.
Mr Ratcliffe said that Fat Face’s head office will remain in Ridgeway and could expand into the current distribution centre after the move.
He praised Portsmouth and Havant councils for their support and said that a planning application is imminent.
Cllr Jones said the city council has been working with Havant Borough Council and that the authority was in close discussions with hotel operators to run a large hotel on the park.
She said the council would ‘continue to market the site’ and would also be looking for tenants for the site’s office space and industrial facilities.
Cllr Jones added: ‘There will be companies which will now want to be based in there because of Fat Face,’
The access road to the site is being built and is due for completion in spring 2016. The distribution centre should open in 2017.