Green light for £2.6bn gigaplant in Northumberland

A £2.6billion battery factory which will put Northumberland on the world map has been given the green light by planners.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 5:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 5:42 pm
An artist impression of Britishvolt's proposed gigaplant in Cambois.

The gigaplant proposals by Britishvolt were given the go ahead by Northumberland County Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Bosses at Britishvolt say the plant – on part of the former Blyth Power Station in Cambois – would create more than 3,000 jobs, with up to 5,000 more in the supply chain, construction and other services.

It is hoped that construction will start later this year, with the first phase being up and running by 2023 with it being at full capacity by 2028.

Coun Trevor Thorne, chair of the committee, said: “This is one of the largest and most important applications to come before this committee.

“The sheer scale is enormous.”

The committee was told the application supported the Wansbeck Local Plan and the county council’s own Emerging Local Plan while there was significant economic benefits to the scheme and “no negative impacts associated with the proposal”.

Peter Rolton, chairman of Britishvolt, told the committee: “These are world class plans to bring the UK’s first gigaplant.

"This is a major opportunity to put Northumberland on the world map.

"The Cambois site is the best option in the UK.

"I was brought up in the North East and this gives me immense pride to bring this here.

"Areas such as Cambois and Blyth need investment and the area requires new industry.

"Electric vehicles are going to be the next industrial revolution.”

Guy Wakefield, also of Britishvolt, added: “Britishvolt is committed to using local labour. We realise the importance of training people.”

A report to the committee said: “Once at full capacity, the Gigaplant will have a production capability of 30GWh, equating to approximately 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs each year intended primarily for the automotive industry.”

The £2.6 billion set aside to fund the scheme is believed to make it the biggest single industrial investment in the North East since Nissan set up shop on Wearside in the 1980s.

Earlier this week, the Japanese auto giant confirmed plans for a major investment in its Washington plant, including a factory by its manufacturing partner Envision AESC capable of making enough batteries to power up to 100,000 electric vehicles every year – a third of the capacity of the Britishvolt scheme.

Once production starts, the new Blyth factory is expected to run 24 hours a day, with the majority of staff on site working across three shifts.

The scheme was backed by Choppington Parish Council, West Bedlington Parish Council and Blyth Town Council, while East Bedlington Parish Council hoped approval could pave the way for rail services to Cambois.

Comments from the public praised the prospect of regenerating an ‘industrial wasteland’, as well as creating jobs and instilling a ‘sense of pride for the local community’.

But some have also opposed the scheme, claiming the factory would look like a prison and would be better off in Teesside.

Councillors unanimously approved the application.

Coun Alex Wallace said he could understand residents in Cambois being sceptical after plans for a biomass plant and coal powered station fell through when the goalposts were moved.

He added: “People in Cambois are hoping the goalposts aren’t moved. I say they won’t be.

"The Government is committed to electric vehicles by 2030. This time we are at the forefront, we are not lagging behind like we were before.

"Cambois is leading Northumberland and that gives me the greatest pleasure to say that.”

Coun Barry Flux said there was no better site in Northumberland while the factory would attract people to live and work in the area, including other towns such as Cramlington, Ashington, Blyth and North Seaton, helping to boost the local economy.

Coun Julie Foster was delighted to back the application, and said she hoped it would bring benefits to local residents including new shops and a better bus service.

Coun Caroline Ball said: “I’m over the moon to welcome this to Cambois.

"It's going to help this generation and the next generation. It’s a great opportunity for Cambois and the whole of Northumberland.”

Coun Thorne concluded: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for South East Northumberland. I’m excited about the jobs and training skills programme.

"I’m fully behind this application.”

Committee members also approved an application for the provision of temporary substations and associated cabling for the construction of the proposed Gigaplant.