LURPAK and Anchor butter group Arla Foods has announced plans to close another regional depot to make savings from its merger with Express Dairies.

The closure is the latest move in an overhaul that has already led to the closure of four sites, including a dairy at Newcastle with the loss of 160 jobs.

Arla said its distribution centre, at Stratford, in east London, would close in April. Job losses were limited to 40 as Arla intends to redeploy more than three quarters of Stratford's workforce of 180 to its dairy in Oakthorpe, near Hatfield, in Hertfordshire.

Closure of the Stratford depot, which was acquired by Arla in 2002 and handles liquid milk, comes only days before production ceases at the group's dairy in Ruislip, west London.

Arla has informed staff at its Newcastle dairy that it plans to halt production there in May, while its dairy at Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, and glass bottling line at Hatfield Peverel, in Essex, have closed.

Yesterday's move means about 750 staff have been made redundant since the merger of Arla with Express Dairies in October 2003, although the group recently won planning permission for a dairy at Lockerbie, in Scotland.

Arla also has a processing plant in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Jobs there are believed to be safe.

Details were announced by Arla at its annual meeting yesterday, which also included an update on trading and the announcement that its chief executive was stepping down.

Arla said trading since October had been in line with its expectations, with sales of the Lurpak brand remaining strong.

The group has so far resisted pressure to follow its main competitors, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman Dairies, and cut the price it pays farmers for milk.