End of an era: Parmalat truck traffic through Winchester ends in early New Year

The new road being completed into Winchester's Lactalis plant.

WINCHESTER — Whether embraced as a sign of economic lifeblood or endured as a source of irritation and inconvenience, those big milk trucks won’t be rumbling through Winchester’s downtown core on their way to Canada’s largest cheddar plant very much longer.

Lactalis Canada, owner of the cheese factory formerly branded as Parmalat, says construction will begin this week on a proper road into the plant’s north entrance off Liscumb Rd., ultimately diverting truck traffic out of the village year round. The work is expected to last “until the end of December 2020” — after which the era of trucks trundling down Winchester’s Main and Gladstone streets will be over.

“Yes, it means that the trucks will not go through downtown Winchester or use Gladstone Street once the construction is completed and will be rerouted to Liscumb [north of the village],” Lactalis Canada’s Director of Corporate Communications, Roopa Sha, confirmed for Nation Valley News by email.

Until then, however, trucks will be detoured onto Gladstone to accommodate the construction period, an inconvenience for which the company “apologizes in advance.”

“As a proud member of the Winchester community, Lactalis Canada places great importance on the safety and wellbeing of its neighbouring residents and business owners,” says the company in a press  “Lactalis Canada will be undertaking major road improvements to address the safety issues and mitigate traffic and noise concerns through downtown Winchester and Gladstone Street as a result of truck traffic to and from our plant…

“Following its completion, all trucks and delivery vehicles to and from the plant will enter and exit from the North Entrance at Liscumb Road throughout the year.”

“I could go on for half an hour on how positive this is,” North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser, who also works at the plant, told NVN. “It’s another example of Lactalis’s commitment to the community.”

Observing that truckers “would rather not be driving on small residential side streets” in the first place, Fraser noted the “situation inside Winchester was becoming unmanageable” with traffic jams on Gladstone and damage to the sidewalk and the narrow street itself.  It was while the township was repairing truck-related damage on Gladstone a couple of years ago that Lactalis began using the old lagoon laneway to the north as a summertime truck entrance. But the trucks always returned to the village in winter as that alternative route wasn’t substantial enough for use during the cold season.

Fraser said he expects the township will have to upgrade Liscumb Rd. to full asphalt as traffic is shifted there, possibly in 2022.

The plant operated for years under the name Parmalat — following decades under the Ault Foods monicker — but Sha says that it and its sister plant in Ingleside are “in the process” of changing signage to reflect a brand switch to parent company Lactalis: Winchester no longer has a “Parmalat” plant!

A 2017 photo of the Winchester cheese plant, which has switched its name to Lactalis. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

This article was updated to include the comments of North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser.

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