A MIXED reaction has greeted news that an Alresford salad factory is to close with the loss of 100 jobs.

As reported, Bakkavor announced last week that is closing its packing plant on Bighton Road. It is not clear when it will shut and what will happen to the building which is next to watercress beds.

City councillor Margot Power said: “I am always very cautious about Bakkavor, I am relieved that they will no longer be discharging into the river, delighted that they will no longer be using an agricultural extraction licence for washing imported salad, concerned about the loss of jobs for those staff that live locally, and very interested to see what becomes of the site.

“I very much hope that the watercress beds will continue to be in production, but that is tempered by concern as to what we will see next on a large site, only part of which, if any, will be used to wash watercress.”

Fiona Isaacs, chairman of Alresford Chamber of Commerce, said: “Any closure of any business is always sad news. The fact that 100 staff will lose their jobs is also not insignificant and our thoughts are with them at this time as well. Whatever people’s personal opinion relating to this particular business, it is still sad news relating to a business closure and employment lost. Our best wishes to everyone involved at this difficult time.”

Many townspeople will not miss Bakkavor large vehicles trundling their way down Broad Street.

Bakkavor has been criticised by conservationists who say its washing of salad leaves is polluting the River Itchen.

Dr Janina Gray, head of science at Salmon & Trout Conservation, said: “We cautiously welcome Bakkavor’s decision to close its salad washing factory on the headwaters of the Itchen, one of our most highly protected chalk streams. Our work has highlighted the damage being done to the river’s ecology from pesticides being washed off the salad leaves and discharged directly into the river.

“We do not have any details at this stage, but know Bakkavor were looking into technical solutions on site to address the pesticides problems, but have clearly decided to close this operation instead. Bakkavor are, of course, not alone. We will be concentrating on ensuring other discharge permits which could be discharging pesticides unmonitored directly into our rivers are also held to account to ensure no environmental damage is occurring.”

Bakkavor denies the controversy was a factor in the closure decision.