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Wales has lost another massive automotive investment

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Aerial view of Bro Tathan

The £2.6 Billion Britishvolt gigaplant which held the promise of 5,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent posts will not now be built at St Athan and the company says it will go to a 230 acres site in Blythe, Northumberland.

The decision follows a few months of talks with Welsh Government during which time Britishvolt appointed Italian designer Pininfarina for scheme.

Doubts about the Welsh plant going ahead started to surface a few months ago and recently the company announced its R&D centre would be in the Midlands close to the heart of the UK car industry.

The production plant which should be in production in 2023 will now be built close to the Nissan car plant and it could encourage the Japanese motor manufacturer to intensify future EV production in Sunderland.

In a statement today, Britishvolt said their NE plant would use green energy sourced from Norway and run in power cables under the North Sea.

“The company has acquired exclusive rights to a site in Blyth Northumberland and intends to begin construction in Summer 2021. World-class lithium-ion batteries will be in production by the end of 2023,” said a statment from Britishvolt.

“Total investment for Britishvolt’s gigaplant is £2.6bn making it the largest industrial investment in the North East since Nissan’s arrival in 1984 and one of the largest-ever industrial investments in the UK. By the final phase of the project in 2027 it will be employing up to 3000 highly skilled people, producing over 300,000 lithium-ion batteries for the UK automotive industry. It will further provide up to 5000 jobs in the wider supply chain.”

The decision to go north is another blow to Welsh Government’s investment plans for the future and in particular the hopes it has pinned on the automotive sector after the withdrawal of Ford, Bridgend this year and the about turn of Ineos which pulled out of a new vehicle plant adjacent to the former Ford site and go to France instead.

Another investment on the back burner is the TVR project, earmarked for Rassau, Ebbw Vale, where a new generation sports car was planned a few years ago but has been dogged by investment problems and that also followed the collapse of the Circuit of Wales project in the same area.

Six years ago, Connaught’s £12M plan to build greener sports cars at Llanelli was blocked because waste products could not be handled by the town’s outdated sewage and foul water treatment plant and the projected plan for hundreds of houses down-stream from the development, although Carmarthen Council wanted it to go ahead but Welsh Government blocked it.

Today’s confirmation of the loss of the Britishvolt investment, 3,000 factory jobs and 5,000 supply chain posts leaves the Welsh Government’s business strategy in tatters and with Brexit looming inside three weeks the supply chain future is not looking good despite the best efforts of the components sector. It will also have knock on effects for Vale of Glamorgan Council and Bridgend Council which will loose millions of pounds in business rates from the withdrawal of developments.

Explaining their decision not to proceed in St Athan, Britishvolt said in a single sentence statement, “Britishvolt had signed an MOU with Welsh Government but upon undertaking detailed feasibility tests, it became apparent that they would not be able to begin construction next year ready for production to be delivered in 2023.”

Robin Roberts
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