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Press closures and office move proposed following review of NI titles

Johnston Press has announced it is considering closing two presses in Northern Ireland, in a move which could also see the News Letter move from its current offices in Belfast and some staff transferred to Portadown.

The group says it has conducted a “strategic review of operations in Northern Ireland” following its takeover of Morton Newspapers, publisher of the Portadown Times and 21 other titles, and Local Press, which publishes 12 newspapers including the News Letter and the Derry Journal.

As a result it is proposing to close printing presses in Belfast and in the North West, which could result in some job losses.

It is also proposing to close the News Letter’s current premises in Boucher Crescent, and move to a new office in Belfast.

The pre-press department in Belfast has been ear-marked for closure and the group says other departments may also be moved to Portadown, 30 miles away.

The company is now beginning consultation with affected staff and says that “every effort” will be made to minimise the impact of the proposals through voluntary redundancy or redeployment.

Jean Long, divisional managing director for Northern Ireland, said: “The presses no longer meet the requirements of the market and do not serve adequately the needs of our advertisers and readers to whom we are committed to providing a first class service.

“It is therefore proposed to utilise printing facilities elsewhere in the group or at a third party supplier which will give our titles more colour and improved quality.”

She added: “As a result of this decision, it is also proposed to close the current premises in Boucher Crescent but in order to reinforce the News Letter’s commitment to Belfast, a new office is planned in the heart of the city which will be more accessible to our readers and advertisers.

“The new editor of the title, Darwin Templeton, joins the company next week and will spearhead the further development of the title.

“The proposal also envisages the closure of the pre-press department in Belfast and the centralisation of certain other departments to the purpose built production centre in Portadown which is within 30 miles of the Boucher Crescent offices.