Britishvolt gigafactory could be North East 'honey pot'
The planned new ‘gigaplant’ for Blyth could become a ‘honey pot’, tempting more cash into the North East, according to industry experts.
The battery factory, which is expected to dwarf similar proposals announced earlier this year by Japanese car giant Nissan, could create up to 8,000 jobs by the time it is fully operational.
And leading figures in the UK’s automotive industry have added their weight to predictions the ‘game changer’ project could usher in a new generation of economic development in the region.
“These are absolutely pivotal investments – they can be transformative for technologies and regions,” said Julian Hetherington, Automotive Transformation Director at the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).
“They [gigaplants] process such high values and bring significant requirements for skills and employment.
“And because of the high capital investment involved, they can in turn lead to further investment in extended supply chains.
“They can be a honey pot in attracting more investment and economic activity.”
Mr Hetherington praised the work of Northumberland County Council in ensuring planning permission for the Britishvolt site, in Cambois, was given the green light as quickly as possible – something he hinted would be viewed positively by future investors.
As well as access to land for expansion and to house suppliers and other associated services, good connections to energy infrastructure for the power-hungry plant were also believed to be key factors in choosing Northumberland for the project’s base.
But while he suggested the scheme could play a decisive role in maintaining the UK’s domestic car-making operations, he also cautioned the industry was likely to see huge change in the coming years, particularly for workers.
He added: “I’m not sure I would expect to see every single job replaced at a constant volume level.
“But actually the ambition is that, as we make the electric vehicle manufacturing industry more competitive in the UK, we will actually see some volume recovery.
“It’s not too many years ago the UK was making 1.6, nearly 1.7million, vehicles a year and we can get back to that if we are competitive and build on a large export base.
“We’re one of the best exporting vehicle manufacturing nations in the world and we can build some of that jobs growth back through volume expansion, as well as through the technology shift.”