Behind the scenes work continues on £2.6bn gigaplant near Blyth
There’s still work to be done, but the proposed creation of a £2.6billion gigaplant in Northumberland has been roundly welcomed.
As revealed before Christmas, Britishvolt, which specialises in battery technologies, has selected Cambois to be the site of the UK’s first gigaplant and intends to begin construction in summer 2021 so that lithium-ion batteries for electric cars can be in production by the end of 2023.
The company would employ 3,000 highly skilled people, while up to 5,000 more jobs are expected from the wider supply chain.
The overall investment totals £2.6billion – although just under half of the funding still needs to be raised – which would make it the largest industrial investment in the North East since Nissan’s arrival on Wearside in 1984.
British Volt has already set up an office in Blyth and has been liaising with Blyth Velley MP Ian Levy as well as Northumberland County Council’s regeneration company, Advance Northumberland.
Mr Levy has described the announcement as a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’, while Advance chairman, Coun Richard Wearmouth, said it ‘would result in a truly transformational change in the economy of Northumberland’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Blyth on the day of the announcement and he too described it as ‘fantastic news’.
The factory, which would be among the largest buildings in the world at 500m by 500m, is earmarked for the 95-hectare former Blyth Power Station site.
This is to the north of the estuary and therefore lies in the Cambois ward in the Wansbeck constituency, rather than in Blyth itself.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said: “It has long been a goal of mine to reignite Wansbeck’s industrial tradition, while hailing the developments within the renewable energy industry, and this new plant is finally a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
“I am overjoyed that the Energy Central site in Wansbeck has been chosen as the site of the new gigaplant.
"This has the potential to change the lives of thousands of my constituents in Wansbeck by providing quality, secure employment which has been in short supply in recent decades in this region.
“I look forward to the summer when construction on the site will begin and will continue to lobby for more jobs and investment to come into the region.”
The news was also welcomed by East Bedlington Parish Council.
Council Chairman, John Batey, said: “East Bedlington Parish Council has continued to engage with all sectors to improve infrastructure, local services, housing and employment opportunities.
"We particularly welcome this announcement as the level of investment will significantly contribute to the sustainability of the region and supports our commitment to achieving a greener, cleaner community.”
Coun Jeff Gobin, who represents Cambois on the county council, added: “I’m delighted such a huge investment is coming to our local area.
“We’ve a long and proud history of industry in this part of Northumberland and a factory and investment of this size will put us on the map once again for generations to come.”
The local authority’s leadership is also fully behind the proposed gigaplant, which would use renewable energy, including the potential to use hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted via the North Sea Link project.
Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for the local area, the wider county and the whole region.
“As a county, we’re already at the forefront of the renewable energy industry and the decision by Britishvolt to choose Northumberland as the location for this gigaplant shows just what this county has to offer in terms of its location and more importantly its workforce.
“It’s a truly momentous day. This will not only be a huge economic boost, but should provide thousands of jobs for local people over the coming years.”
He added: “Our area was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and we now start a new era as the leading light of a green industrial revolution that will change the world for the better.”
Chief executive Daljit Lally said: “We really welcome this potential investment into Wansbeck and I look forward to seeing this exciting scheme progress.”
Business leaders were also pleased to hear of this ‘fantastic boost for Blyth and the wider North East’.
Jonathan Walker, policy director at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have the expertise and passion to be genuine world leaders in low-carbon technologies and investments such as this will help to cement that reputation.”
Elsewhere, Britishvolt has appointed global specialist ISG to lead construction on the plant.
Britishvolt CEO, Orral Nadjari “We’re delighted to have engaged ISG as the construction partner for our Blyth gigaplant.
"Its long expertise of delivering global projects will be crucial to meeting our exacting standards and tight timeframe.
“Especially key is that ISG’s frontline team delivered Jaguar Land Rover’s production facility in Nitra, Slovakia, giving Britishvolt hugely relevant and recent experience in delivering large-scale projects such as ours.
“Our gigaplant project is now on track in every key area: construction, product development, funding and a high-level of customer engagement for our world-class lithium-ion batteries.
"We will be production ready at the end of 2023. It’s essential that we are ready to power the future as quickly as possible.”
ISG CEO, Paul Cossell “This landmark project to build the UK’s first gigaplant is one of the most visible signs that we are confidently stepping up to meet the challenge of new zero emissions by 2050 and closely aligned with the government’s key commitment to cease petrol and diesel car manufacturing by 2030.
"The construction phase alone will directly support thousands of jobs in the North East and create a wealth of training and upskilling opportunities for local communities.
"The legacy of this major investment will benefit the region for generations to come.”
The gigaplant is being designed by leading Italian design experts Pininfarina.