Imperial Tobacco is stubbing out more than 100 years of manufacturing in Britain after it announced the closure of its only remaining UK plant, in Nottingham, to shift production to cheaper facilities in Poland and Germany.

The Bristol based tobacco company, the world s fourth largest by market share, plans to close its factory in Nottingham, where it employs 540 people, as part of a European restructuring programme designed to help it save f300m a year from September 2018.

Imperial is the only tobacco company to still manufacture cigarettes in mainland Britain Japan Tobacco International has a plant in Ballymena in Northern Ireland, where it employs 900 people.

Imperial said the Nottingham factory, which 10 years ago employed as many as 1,000 staff, is operating at less than half its 36 billion cigarettes a year capacity due to declining tobacco consumption in the UK.

The group added that forthcoming European regulations, which will ban the sale of packs of 10 cigarettes and 30g packs of rolling tobacco, would also affect production.

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Brands made at the plant in Nottingham, including Lambert and Butler and Embassy No 1, will now be manufactured in Germany and Poland and imported to the UK market.

Although Imperial s current facilities in Nottingham, on Thane Road, only date back to 1972, the company s ties with the city can be traced back to 1877 when John Player bought a small cigarette manufacturing business in Broad Marsh, Nottingham. Players was one of 13 family run businesses from which Imperial was born in 1901.

A spokesman for Imperial said the company will undertake a consultation process and expects to close the factory “progressively” over the next two years.

The tobacco giant also plans to shut a factory in Nantes in France, where it employs 320 people, as part of the European restructuring programme, which will claim 900 jobs in total. The Nantes factory has also suffered from declining production it will only produce 9bn cigarettes this year but has capacity to manufacture 21bn.

A research and development facility in Bergerac in France is also under threat, although the group said 80 new roles could be created in Paris under plans to restructure its sales force and support operations in the French capital.

Alison Cooper, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, said “These projects are an essential part of securing the sustainable future of the business. The prospect of job losses is always regrettable and we will be doing all we can to support employees and ensure that they are treated in a fair and responsible manner.”

Unite national officer, Rhys McCarthy, called the closure “shocking” and said it will have a devastating impact on the local community.

“What we were not expecting was the wholesale closure of the Nottingham site and an end to Imperial Tobacco manufacturing cigarettes in the UK and moving production to eastern Europe.”

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