‘Come and have coffee with - we’ve nothing to hide’ says WMS Recruitment of Wisbech
Motorists driving between March and Wisbech via the back road through Coldham will probably have noticed the tree-lined entrance signposted Fridaybridge Agricultural Camp.
But what many of them probably don’t realise is the site’s long history and the fact that it has had £100,000s spent revamping it in the six years since current owner Wayne Cottrill took it over.
Wayne, who was born and brought up just minutes from the site in Fridaybridge, is very proud of what he has achieved breathing new life into the former WW2 prisoner of war camp, making it a hub for his business WMS Recruitment.
Operations manager for WMS, Craig McGill, said the site was in a terrible state when the firm took it on after years of neglect. But with major investment it is now home to around 300 people - largely agricultural workers from all over Europe.
The work has been done sympathetically retaining some of the old huts used by prisoners of war because the firm is aware of its historical significance for people.
After the war the site became a venue for mostly students looking for summer work travelling on special permits from Europe to work on farms.
Craig said the camp regularly receives visitors from relatives of former prisoners of war and also couples who met at the camp when they came to work and are now celebrating wedding anniversaries. “We are always happy to have them come in and look around and reminisce,” he said.
Craig added: “We are very proud of what we have done here. Obviously it is not the Hilton or the Ritz but it is good quality, safe and secure accommodation for our workforce. They pay a fair rent and we make sure everything is done properly. We have invested an awful lot of time and money making sure the site is at a good standard. We have introduced extra facilities such as an on-site shop, where goods are sold at the price we buy them.
“A lot of our clients have lengthy induction courses and so we have created a training room on-site so the workers can undergo the necessary training before they start work.
“We are regularly visited by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority - which licences us to operate - and they consider us a role model because they know we do everything by the book, we don’t cut corners. All our minibuses that transport the workers are brand new. We have 100 of them - we didn’t have to buy new but we wanted safe and reliable transport for our people.
“WMS Recruitment is a major success story for Wisbech. It started in the town 20 years ago and we now have offices in Lincoln and Spalding and a major operation in Cornwall. That is why we have been so upset by the criticism over signs in the windows of our offices in Wisbech.
“Wayne wanted to bring the iconic Post Office building back into use rather than see it rot. We have been shocked by how much anger people have over the window signs we put up - which is why we are organising an open coffee morning at the Post Office for Friday (1) so people can come and see for themselves.
“We will be offering free tea, coffee and cake from 10.30am and we welcome everyone to come and meet us.”