A NEW £20 million development at Warburtons is all set to be the best thing since sliced bread.

But sales of what was once the nation’s favourite loaf have declined so rapidly, that the Burnley bakery has stopped making them altogether.

The bread plant closed last Friday and shoppers will no longer be able to buy a sliced medium, toastie or supertoasty loaf baked and packaged in Burnley.

The expansion will be used to produce Warburtons new range of wraps and ‘Thins’ – soft, flat, individual slices that can be topped like crackers or filled to make sandwiches that fit snugly in your lunchbox.

Crumpets, potato cakes and pancakes will continue to be made on the site.

General manager Mike Dawson said: “Sales of sliced bread have been declining since the Second World War but recently, they have fallen into quite a rapid decline.

“The plant in Burnley was the smallest bread plant of the Warburton family so the decision was made to close it.

“Many staff have been with us since the beginning in 1981.

“It really does feel like the end of an era but we have lots to look forward to.

“The new development secures the future of the Burnley site and I think everyone is pleased to know we are staying in the area and keeping jobs.”

Mot a single redundancy will be made because of the closure of the bread plant and everyone who worked there will be transferred into a job in the new ‘Sandwich Alternatives’ plant or one of the other existing pancake, crumpet or potato cake plants on site.

Warburtons will expand the workforce and are looking to recruit 60 people to work in the new plant with jobs ranging from managers to machine operators.

Work began in January on the 100m long plant that runs adjacent to the existing bakery in Billington Road and will be running by January 2015.

The plant will produce 33,400 individual items per hour.

Steve Merritt, head of new build projects at Warburtons, said: “It’s a very exciting phase.

“It’s a great thing for Burnley to keep manufacturing at its heart and we have used all local firms and contractors. The new jobs will be interesting, skillful jobs that people can really be passionate about.”

Mr Merritt and Mr Dawson thanked Warburtons neighbouring businesses, Veka and True Shopping, who have allowed them to use their car parking spaces while building work is under way.