Dunlop: Pannal's once-booming factory

DUNLOPILLO was formed in 1929 to market latex foam, which had been created by Dunlop research scientist E A Murphy using a cake mixer and a steam oven. It produced pillows, beds, cinema seating and latex cushioning for cars

Latex foam grew in popularity throughout the 1930s, before virtually disappearing during the war years due to rubber plantations being blockaded. After the war, normal supplies were resumed.

In her book, Postcards From Pannal, area correspondent Anne Smith writes that the company acquired the Pannal site in 1949, taking over from local "super foam" business Bintex, which had stood on the site from 1938 to 1949.

In 1960, Dunlopillo decided to relocate its headquarters to Pannal, building a new office block the next year.

The firm was pleased with its factory in Pannal, Anne notes, saying in its literature that it blended "perfectly into the countryside".

Peter Dunning grew up in Pannal. He recalled the factory as it was in the 1950s.

"For us, it was like it had always been there," he said.

"It was the only sort of employment in the village.

"I don't think it was a very pleasant place to work, to be honest, it was just a smelly factory with unskilled labour and low wages in those days.

"Nobody was proud of it or revered it. It was just there."

The factory has remained a central part of the village ever since - weathering a takeover and a stink over emissions - before an announcement in 2005 that it may be sold off for development.

In 2002, Dunlopillo sold the bed-manufacturing side of the business to rival Slumberland for 12m, changing its name to Dunlop Latex Foam in the process. Eight jobs were affected, with some employees moving from the Pannal site to Slumberland's headquarters in Oldham.

At the time, Dunlopillo had an annual turnover of 25m and was selling its products in 80 countries.

From 2001 to 2005 the company received several warnings about unpleasant smells coming from the Pannal factory during manufacturing.

In August 2001, ward councillor Mike Gardner said the odour was "nauseating and sickly" and could often be smelled all over the village.

Harrogate Borough Council issued an abatement notice three years later, ordering the company to address residents' concerns.

This was upheld in a three day hearing at Harrogate Magistrates' Court in May 2005, after District Judge Earl went to Pannal to smell the air for himself.

Three months later, the firm announced that it was considering closing its factory in Pannal, with the land being sold for redevelopment as houses or flats.

Plans for the site were finally submitted to the borough council in October last year.

After these were rejected by the council's planning committee in January, the developers said they would take the decision to appeal.

This appeal is expected to be heard in November.

Dunlop Latex Foam Ltd made a profit of approximately 400,000 for the first seven months of 2008 and it is believed the directors had secured funding to relocate part of the business overseas.

That funding was conditional on resolving the company's pension fund deficit. When this did not happen, directors were forced to place the business into administration.