MORE than 80 jobs could be lost with the proposed closure of the Sunderland Echo’s printing presses.
Parent company Johnston Press is looking into transferring printing to Dinnington, near Sheffield, from the end of October.
Closing the press hall, announced on Friday, will end nearly 140 years of the Echo being printed in Sunderland.
A total of 81 people are set to lose their jobs. A number of journalists are also set to lose their jobs as subediting roles are moved to Sheffield.
Echo editor Rob Lawson also announced on Friday that he would be stepping down from the role he has held for 10 years.
Senior church leaders have spoken out against the potential job losses, which came in the same week Caterpillar in Peterlee announced they were to shed 300 jobs.
The Right Revd. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, said: “Local newspapers are essential to local communities.
“Their health is measured by their local participation in the economy and in reporting.
“The loss of an exceptional editor and the moving of printing to Sheffield, are bad news for Sunderland and very much to be regretted.”
Canon Sheila Bamber, Canon Provost of Sunderland Minster, added: “Just when we were starting to see some green shoots of improvement in things a wave of closures and redundancies have been announced signalling a worrying trend in the opposite direction.
“This is very bad news for Sunderland and Wearside.”
Titles currently printed at the plant in Pennywell include the Echo, the Gazette and the Hartlepool Mail, along with a series of sister weeklies.
David Crow, operating manager of Group Services, said: “A strategic review has been undertaken of the Johnston Press print capacity. As a result of this review it is proposed to close Sunderland Web and transfer the majority of printing to Sheffield Web, with some external contract print support.
“Should the proposal proceed, staff currently employed within the Sunderland Web will transfer via Transfer of Undertaking, Protection of Employment legislation, to Sheffield Web at the end of October.
“Prior to any implementation, we will consult extensively with the affected staff under the Transfer of Undertaking, Protection of Employment legislation.
“During the process we will explain the procedure, consider all alternatives, examine ways of mitigating the effects of this proposals and address any other issues that might arise.
“We anticipate that this consultation and closure process will be complete by the end of October.”
The Pennywell site will remain the base for nearly 300 editorial, commercial and support staff.