While at Tilney Street, I received a letter from Reg Jenkins calling me to a secret meeting to discuss a possible project. The secrecy of the development was stressed to David and I as, at the time, Kodak were thinking of moving part of their factory north and had found a 500-acre site near Nottingham. They were having Union problems with, in particular, Film Finishing Department at Harrow. Films could only be processed in the dark and it was difficult to cut and splice and package in one large hall so not only did the operatives have to work in complete darkness with tiny light bulbs but the large number of machines would have to be maintained under very difficult conditions. It was only possible once a year to open up the hall after all the films had been removed for yearly maintenance and cleaning. This was not obviously the best solution to maintain staff cooperation and efficiency. They decided that if they could get a Green Field site a modern factory could be designed with better production and a reduced staff.
For months the proposed development was kept under wraps. Unfortunately, one of my drawings sent by post to Kodak ended in the wrong hands. Luckily we were not to blame and anyway the individual that opened the envelope did not realize the significance of the word ‘Annersley’ and the drawing was passed onto Reg Jenkins.
It was finally decided to develop the site and although it was ideal for a future development, it was adjoining coalfields, which could cause subsidence even though millers left pillars of support after mining but in time these collapsed After many meetings, Kodak managed to persuade the National Coal Board that, at a price, they would not mine under the Kodak site in perpetuity.
We first designed a general layout for the whole 500-acre site with entrance onto the main road and internal service roads, car parking areas and a large lake in the valley and the preservation of a small wood. We had to get approval from the Severn Trent Water Authority as well as agreeing the position of the sewage treatment plant.
Before we could instruct Sir Alfred McAlpine to start levelling the first two plateaus there was the problem of the 3 footpaths, which crossed the site. The Law of the Land forbids the interference of footpaths without Ministry approval. It was necessary to hold a Public Enquiry and representatives from the Ramblers Association, Friends of the Earth, etc. etc. were there in force and Kodak employed a QC to represent the company. It then took an age before approval was given and even then only for one of the footpaths. However it was essential to start before the autumn and dirty great earthmovers worked around the existing paths until finally, a few weeks later these were granted after we had installed an alternative route around the perimeter of the site. The footpaths, although beautifully constructed, were probably never used!
The development went ahead satisfactorily although I had a problem with the structural engineers, Frederic Rand & Partners, who had been appointed by Kodak. Unbeknownst to me, the firm itself was having a partnership crisis, the senior partners leaving and the principal's son trying to take control. The first phase was completed. Each machine in the factory was separated in light-tight compartments so that maintenance could be carried out without affecting other compartments. However there was one other main problem, although each of the compartments were contained with its own air-conditioning, the high relative humidity required meant that the air in the adjoining areas was laden with water that condensed with the cold pipes above and the underside of the metal roof which caused some condensation. This was eventually solved by increasing the insulation on the pipes and to the roof. I suppose, due to our work designing Kodak’s laboratory at Harrow, they went on to design the digital cameras and as a result the demand for film has fallen and I note that, very recently, the factory has closed.