Kodak is to close its European Kodachrome 35mm film processing plant in Switzerland and move operations to the United States, just weeks after denying rumours of any such plans. The news came hours after Kodak UK announced plans to close down a key factory that makes chemicals used in film and traditional photographic paper at facilities in Kirkby, Merseyside (pictured).

Revealing plans to close its European Kodachrome processing lab in Lausanne, Kodak insisted that it will continue to sell the film which is currently available as Kodachrome 64 Professional and Kodachrome 200 Professional. The Swiss plant employs around 20 people.

The move is something of a surprise as it was only a few weeks ago that a Kodak spokesperson told us: ‘The lab in Switzerland is fully up and running and we have no plans to close it.? (see AP News 17 June).

The company confirmed that the film will still be available in Europe as well as other parts of the world.

For the past two years Kodak processing in the United States has been handled by an independent lab which is based in Kansas.

The company plans to move its processing from Switzerland to the US by 30 September.

?Combining the processing at one location allows us to provide the quality levels demanded by users of Kodachrome film,? claimed US spokesman Brad Kruchten.

Meanwhile, Kodak UK?s closure of its Kirkby factory is expected to cost around 85 jobs.

A spokesman said: ?Kodak is taking actions to sharpen competitiveness and ensure that traditional photographic products remain profitable in a shrinking market, while simultaneously accelerating the growth of the digital business.?

The move ? part of previously announced restructuring plans ? will not have an impact on other UK sites, according to the company.

As well as producing chemicals for film and photographic paper, the plant ? which has been at Kirkby since 1949 ? is also involved in the recovery of silver from used photochemicals. Many of these chemicals are used at Kodak?s plant in Harrow and exported to other Kodak sites worldwide.

However, a facility which make nitrates ? also in use in the making photographic materials ? will remain at Kirkby.

Factory manager Tony Field said the closure was a ?difficult decision? but accepted that the demand for Kodak?s traditional business is declining as digital products become more popular.