Welcome to Britain's biggest fridge

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BRITAIN'S biggest fridge is being built on the 14-acre site of a former coal-fired power station in the Midlands. The colossal development will be big enough to hold up to 3,000 double-decker buses.

The development, at Hams Hall, Warwickshire, will actually hold up to 250 million Magnum ice-creams - or 1.2 billion fish-fingers, enough to give everyone in China their own breaded digit of cod. In less populous Britain, every single person could tuck into five Magnums, or 21 fish- fingers before the fridge was emptied.

The project, undertaken by Birds Eye Wall's, is part of the food giant's plans to speed up distribution times across the country by having vast quantities of food in a central store. When it is completed, the giant fridge will be 34m high, 66m wide and 140m long.

The site will gobble up electricity on a grand scale: 12,500 megawatt hours of power per annum will be needed to maintain the temperature at an Arctic minus 28C (the average domestic consumption is a mere 3.3 megawatt hours per annum, so the plant's power could run the equivalent of some 4,000 houses).

Given the extreme temperature inside the warehouse, the company is keen that no humans should set foot inside unless absolutely necessary. Nine fully-automated cranes will process the orders, and in the event of a malfunction, one of the nine aisles could be switched off, allowing a heavily clad engineer to perform repairs.

Birds Eye Wall's employed a logistics firm, Power Europe, to locate and manage the site. It chose the Hams Hall site because of its central location in the Midlands conurbation and its proximity to the motorway network, which would keep transport costs down. The pounds 37m project is scheduled for completion by June 1999.

"It will be the biggest frozen, single-chamber container in the UK," says the company's project manager, Richard Williams. "It will house all our frozen foods: beef burgers, peas, Solero iced lollies and so on, on 42,000 pallets. Although it will be fully-automated, there will be 80 people on-site to process orders and look after security. It's being built, unlike most buildings, from the inside out, starting with the metal racking, moving out to the 6ins of insulating polyurethane, then the steel cladding."

Mr Williams emphatically denies the gigantic fridge is a potential pollutant. "As a company involved in refrigeration, we don't use CFCs [the ozone- depleting compound], as many cooling processes do.

"We've pulled out of using ozone-unfriendly gases, and we're comfortable that we're not therefore impacting on the environment. It's a brown-field site, next to the new Rover-BMW factory, so it won't be an eyesore.

"We're building the fridge because of customers. We had to become more hi-tech to get stock out to them very quickly. Where before we had a lead time of two days between orders and delivery, we will now be able to turn things around within 24 hours. Demands for things like ice-cream can be very whimsical. When the sun shines, you sell more, so we've got to be able to respond."


Big enough...

to accommodate 3,000 double-decker buses

or 65 tennis courts

or 1.2 billion fish


or 250 million

Magnum ice-creams

or 42 million litres of raspberry ripple

On a grand scale...

34m high, 66m wide and 140m long, and powered by 12,500 megawatt hours of power per annum

And another thing...

Using fridge magnet letters, you could copy the entire contents of this newspaper, 97 times, on one side alone