Newsprinters to close Knowsley print plant

Knowsley operates from a 33 acre site
Knowsley operates from a 33 acre site

Newsprinters has announced plans to close its Knowsley plant in a further blow to print employment in the Liverpool area.

Today (11 May) parent News UK said that it had “regretfully concluded that it must propose the closure of its Knowsley print plant in the months to come”.

The closure is subject to consultation and the timeline is not yet clear. Printweek understands that 200 staff will be impacted. 

News UK said it would engage with employees and recognised union “as appropriate”.

Knowsley was one of three print sites that was completely revamped by the then News International in a £600m mega-spend that took place from 2000-2008, when the media group switched to full-colour printing.

It moved out of Wapping and set up a new facility at Broxbourne as part of the plan. 

Knowsley runs five Manroland Colorman XXL triple-width newspapers presses. It can produce 430,000 120pp tabloid newspapers per hour. 

The platemaking setup involves five high-speed Agfa Advantage platesetters, while the post-press department has two Ferag finishing lines for trimming, inserting, onserting, stitching and polywrapping, while the mailroom has five Ferag systems along with high-speed DAN palletisers and Mosca in-line strappers.   

Newsprinters managing director Darren Barker said the business was “committed to keeping printed newspapers in the hands of our readers, and delivering for our clients”. 

“The proposal to close our Knowsley facility was a difficult decision to reach. However, this proposal is aimed at strengthening our ability to provide long term sustainability to the print and distribution services we provide to clients across the industry.”

He added: “I want to recognise and thank all Newsprinters colleagues and Business Partners in Knowsley for their valuable contribution over many years and their continued cooperation and understanding. We are committed to offering every possible support as we undertake the proper staff consultation process.”

News UK said that titles currently produced at Knowsley would be moved to its other print sites: Eurocentral in Glasgow and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. 

Broxbourne is the biggest site and has 12 Colorman XXL triple-width presses, although Printweek understands that at least two of the presses are currently mothballed due to the decline in demand. 

Industry sources said some work currently produced at Knowsley could also be printed at DMG Media’s Dinnington print site near Sheffield.

The news has also resulted in speculation about how News UK will need to adapt in order to get its daily papers for the north of England into the distribution network in the tight timescales required. 

Newsprinters also prints for other publishers, including Telegraph Media Group. 

Newspaper circulations are in overall decline. The Sun used to sell more than 1.2m copies a day, but News UK stopped making its circulation data public in March 2020. 

The last published circulation figure for The Times was 365,800. 

The move is a further blow to the industry and print employment in the Liverpool region, with the Prinovis gravure plant set to stop printing at the end of next month. Around 250 jobs are going as a result.