We must snatch jobs opportunity

The former Coty factory at Seaton Delaval.
The former Coty factory at Seaton Delaval.

You might not have noticed that there is more happening at Westminster than the endless debates over Brexit.

The other night, I launched an adjournment debate on a golden opportunity to bring much-needed jobs to Blyth Valley.

The Coty factory at Seaton Delavel, which used to make aftershave, has been shut for months with the loss of over 600 jobs. I often drive past the factory and it is a crying shame to see a mothballed plant, which had a lot of investment put into it, standing empty.

Now there is a proposal by Heather Mills, the former wife of Beatle Paul McCartney, to use the site to expand her vegan food business and create over 1,000 jobs.

She is negotiating on price, but if the sale goes through another £6m will be needed to get it up and running.

A year ago, the government promised £380m in local growth investment cash to create 8,000 jobs across the north east. I hope that is still on the table because Heather Mills’ VBites proposal is worthy of help.

The main factory would provide 500 to 600-plus jobs for those preparing the food, and the rest of the site would be made into start-up businesses. We should think about that venture because vegan food is taking off.

Seaton Delaval went through a bad patch when it lost all those jobs. It wants them back.

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry agreed it was “extremely important” that the site is re-opened and promised that he and his team would make contact with Ms Mills. He agreed that “it is a new opportunity for the site and to create the desperately needed, secure, highly paid jobs.”

This would be a fantastic opportunity in terms of job creation and apprenticeships, and great international PR for the region at a time when the Port of Blyth is doing well with offshore wind investment.

The government should help us snatch such opportunities with both hands.