New owners deploy new business plan to house foreign workers at former prisoner of war camp

A FORMER prisoner of war camp set in 12 acres of rural Fenland is to become home for up to 350 foreign workers.

Friday Bridge International Camp has been bought out of receivership by Wisbech businessman Wayne Cotterill off an asking price of �1.7 million.

Mr Cottrill’s WMS Recruitment agency will run the Friday Bridge site which they plan to upgrade to attract workers to live there.

Operations director Dave McIntyre said the sum paid “was nothing like” the asking price.

Mr McIntyre said the camp had tried, unsuccessfully, to provide accommodation and all meals for �80 a week but had found it impossible to do so.

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WMS had set a price of �32.27 a week including all bills- but no food- and from the 85 people on site when they moved in the numbers have grown to 240. By autumn they expect to hit 350.

“The problem was one of costing,” said Mr McIntyre. “That was why the last owners eventually lost it. We’re geared up for the working environment of today, we know about getting bums on seats so to speak and we’ve gone for it.”

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Chris McKay, of McTear Williams & Wood of Norwich was co-liquidator of Friday Bridge International Camp Ltd.

He said the McDonalds who owned it got into difficulties about 18 months ago and entered a voluntary agreement to pay off debts over a five year period. However they failed to meet the repayments and “when they came to see me in February this year they explained there were further problems in cash flow.”

In a separate move the family’s bankers appointed a receiver to sell the buildings.

Mr McKay said: “I dealt with what was left.”

He explained it had been a successful business for many years and Mr McDonald and his sister and bought it off their parents five years ago.

However changes to EU regulations which meant students no longer needed a visa to work here made it more difficult and employment law changes, including statutory holiday entitlements and NI requirements for seasonal workers, affected their business model.

FRIDAY Bridge Camp has its own bar, cinema, tennis courts and open air swimming pool and, once improvements are made, could be open to local residents.

Mr McIntyre explained the new owners were anxious to work with the local community and that could include inviting them in to use the leisure facilities.

Barclays Bank revealed today they had given WMS �500,000 towards acquiring and developing the camp.

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