The multi-billion-pound transformation just waiting for the first turf to be cut
Last updated at 11:34, Thursday, 14 June 2012
CUTTING the first sod on a new nuclear power station holds the key to a £90 billion investment in West Cumbria.
Brian Wilson, who spearheads the Britain’s Energy Coast Economic Blueprint designed to transform the area, says that building the new power station is the bedrock on which the vision rests.
He predicts that if everything goes to plan Copeland – and West Cumbria – stand on the threshold of a booming economy in what the Blueprint describes as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The former Labour energy minister revealed that talks are talking place with City financiers to create a venture capital fund to bring added investment into the area.
Talking exclusively to The Whitehaven News before tomorrow’s official Blueprint launch, Mr Wilson said: “If there was a sod cut on a new nuclear power station I think that would kick it all off. Everything we’re doing, and want to do, has a value in its own right but once you have that major project allied to very large sums of investment poured in then it’s transformational, capturing the essence of the Blueprint, giving people great confidence in the future.”
‘Acting Locally, Thinking Globally’ is one of the Blueprint’s rallying calls.
BEC’s chairman goes on: “There’s really big potential for companies which have developed through Sellafield to look outwards. There’s absolutely no reason then why people who have worked at Sellafield or Dounreay shouldn’t get their act together to send people out to work in Japan and Germany. Likewise for local companies to think of themselves as national firms.”
What would he say to those sceptical about yet another Masterplan?
“Britain’s Energy Coast is not on its own in trying to transform the local economy. There’s a lot of extra money we can put in, the evidence is already there in the useful ways money is being spent. But we share the impatience over some of the things that have taken so long to be delivered. However, we have to get the positives across that projects are actually being delivered.
“We do have to raise our sights... and with any luck we should have a booming local economy.
“When I first talked to The Whitehaven News about our plans I was very supportive about things like Pow Beck and Albion Square in order to give early hits. I’d have been astonished then to think that three or four years later I’d still be talking about them in the future rather than the present as we are now.
“The fact is that these have been high-profile and have made people feel good about the place but have not yet been delivered, and that disappoints me. But some other things have been delivered, and others will be. But if you wanted a chairman of this organisation to sort out disputes such as that over the rugby league ground (Pow Beck sports stadium) then there’s a lot of people better qualified than me. What I hope is that the next period will bring a much more outward-looking approach and more evidence that the groundwork has been solid and well justified.
“Projects are coming through, such as the Port of Workington and Whitehaven’s Albion Square, along with the new Construction Skills Centre.”
So what would you like to happen over the next 5-10 years?
“I’d like to see nuclear new-build well under way, decisions taken on some of the major projects, energy renewables making a serious impression, and a lot of good things happening round about – products of the prosperity it would bring to West Cumbria and making the area more attractive to live and do business in.
What will turn a blueprint into reality?
“It certainly means that everyone has to work together, taking recognition that a lot of this investment is strategic and you need the public infrastructure in order to create the private investment. It’s not as though nothing’s already happening here.”
“Major projects are coming up, if they slip through our fingers then it really is lost opportunity. Having said that, Sellafield’s always going to be there, it’s not all or nothing. Problem with the nuclear industry is that decisions taken today won’t come to fruition for maybe another 10 to 15 years. I’ve always said there has to be some market guarantees so that the right conditions exist when new nuclear does come on steam. There have been setbacks so far with energy companies but NuGen are very positive. We want to keep it that way.
“There’s absolutely no reason why other things shouldn’t grow and flourish as well. We’ve always been very insistent that it’s Britain’s Energy Coast, not Britain’s nuclear coast. All these have to be fought for whereas nuclear is with us and is capable of further major development.”
Talk of £90 billion is mind boggling – where’s all the money coming from?
“The first big block of it will come from NuGen’s nuclear new-build. We have a very strong vested interest in seeing that nationally the environment exists so that nuclear new-build will go ahead.”
One of the big hopes is the setting up of a Venture Capital Fund in which City financiers will invest in the area’s growth.
“This is an-going initiative in which we hope investors will see great potential in West Cumbria as an attractive place to make investments.”
But how do you sell West Cumbria to them?
“We have been working with one particular outfit who have tested the water and are very interested (and it’s a very attractive idea) of setting up a West Cumbria Fund, a private investment fund specific to our area. Which could then provide matched funding with the potential to draw in other funding as well. There’s no reason why that’s not a possibility because we have a core (energy) business that virtually guarantees a lot of things are going to be happening here.”
BEC’s acting chief executive Tom Gilroy added: “We are rather confident we can bring something home. We are very keen to get this Venture Capital Fund sorted from City financial institutions convincing them that ours is a good place in which to invest. City financiers are very excited about the prospect of working with an area that has potentially a £90 billion opportunity facing it.
“Nugen alone predict investment of £9 billion, so if we have new reactors we need a new grid connection, a significant investment itself. Then there’s the possibility of Mox 2 at Sellafield, coupled with a £45 billion budget for decommissioning, so I suppose it’s relatively easy to get to the magic £90 billion.”
Mr Wilson said: “Many parts of the country would value having an industry with a future that can underpin its local economy. It’s one step at a time, the challenge being to ensure it’s not only nuclear – if you bring in the massive investment for nuclear new- build then you want to maximise the opportunities for local companies and for local people.
“If, like West Cumbria, you are sitting on the geographical edge then you have to punch above your weight in order to get attention. That’s also the value of this Blueprint.
“I see West Cumbria as a place with huge potential and I just want to see the best for it. It’s a privilege to be involved in something that can make a difference.
“I don want to see all the eggs in the nuclear basket but the reality is that the major investment is going to come through nuclear.”
Mr Gilroy said: “We need to look at those businesses which need help to grow, to position themselves to be able to take advantage of those opportunities coming our way. At the end of the day it has to be something people will be able to see, touch and feel.”
First published at 11:07, Thursday, 14 June 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
If someone gave me thousands of punds in wages to big up the town i would come out with whatever they wanted to hear,then disappear out of the area,sounds familiar with our councils doesn't it.
Who are they kidding. Just another PR stunt by the the BEC Board ex Sellafield Directors Old Boys Club. Our cupboards have been stuffed full of jam tomorrow by Brian Wilson and BEC but as we all know, nobody ever got fat on jam tomorrow. The jars are empty and if Copeland families continue to feed themselves on this stuff they are in for a long and painful decline.
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