The CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) is ending production at its last British footwear factory.

Staff at Goliath Footwear Limited, which makes safety footwear, have been told that all manufacturing will now be concentrated overseas. The workforce, which numbered about 230 just four years ago, will be reduced to just 15 - turning the British factory, which is in Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire - into an import and distribution operation.

A spokesman for the company said: "We very much regret having to make this move, but the highly competitive situation in the safety footwear market leaves us with no choice.

"Nearly all of UK safety footwear is now sourced from overseas and the current strength of the pound is exacerbating the situation. In order to compete more effectively in the changed market and meet the needs of our customers we have had to follow other UK safety footwear suppliers by introducing imported goods to our own range.

"As a result, the production capacity at the Heckmondwike factory is being closed to ensure that the business remains profitable. Goliath Footwear Limited will continue to operate in the safety footwear sector and further develop our market share."

The company is currently involved in a consultation process with the union, KFAT, but the intention is that production will wind down over the next three months. The decision will involve the loss of 20 jobs - the workforce has been steadily reducing in recent years as production has been moved abroad. It is understood that the remaining production will move to Turkey.

CWS says that despite the small size of the remaining workforce there are no plans to move out of the factory. The fate of the building will be part of future considerations, however.

The decision to halt production brings to an end 120 years of footwear manufacturing at the Heckmondwike site. At its height, the factory employed hundreds of people.

By Clive Hinchliffe.