A GOVERNMENT minister has backed Hartlepool to become a hub for green energy in a move which could create thousands of new jobs.
Energy minister Charles Hendry said he was “impressed” with what the town has to offer during a whistle-stop tour of firms Heerema Hartlepool, PD Ports and JDR Cable Systems.
Town leaders say the visit gave the minister the opportunity to see for himself the “enormous potential” for developing new and renewable energy sources.
Mr Hendry said: “Hartlepool has the potential to be a central part of the renewable energy infrastructure in this country.
“That would of course lead to a huge number of jobs.”
Mr Hendry, who was invited to Hartlepool by town MP Iain Wright, added: “I have been impressed both by what has already been done in recent years and with the huge potential for continued development here.
“Anybody who is serious about construction in the off-shore industry should look no further than the UK.”
He said that Hartlepool already has the land, the facilities and the skilled workforce in place.
Mr Wright said: “The aim of the visit was to show the minister the huge potential of Hartlepool and in particular in the off-shore renewable energy industry.
“We can be at the centre of UK policy for energy.
“Hartlepool has a big role to play.”
The minister’s visit came on the back of the Government announcement last week that Hartlepool had been confirmed as one of eight sites where new multi-million pound reactors can be developed.
Jerry Hopkinson, managing director of bulks, ports and logistics at PD Ports, said: “The message from Hartlepool is that we are ready to go.
“We have an excellent facility with lots of available land directly adjacent to the port which is ideal for the construction of factories in the wind sector.
“There is huge potential to create several thousand long-term sustainable jobs in the town.”
Paul Barker, development director at PD Ports, said the desire was to create a “cluster” of businesses at the Greenland Road site which would have spin-off benefits to the supply chain.
Nick Routledge, vice president of business development and sales at Heerema, showed how work was progressing on a huge 180-ft oil and gas well head, which will sit on the seabed at a site in the North Sea once work is complete in July at the offshore construction yard.
He added: “There is a lot of expertise in Hartlepool.
“It is great for Mr Hendry to see what is happening on the ground.”
Mr Hendry was also given a tour of JDR Cable Systems, which makes cables for the world’s wind power turbines and high-voltage subsea cables weighing up to 4,000 tonnes.
Earlier this year the firm won a contract with the Chinese National Oil company to supply power cables.
Patrick Phelan, the firm’s managing director, said he took the opportunity to point out the importance of continued projects to safeguard jobs.
He added: “It is great to be exporting to China, given their expanding economy.”
Antony Steinberg, economic development manager at Hartlepool Borough Council, said the visit gave the town the opportunity to demonstrate the “high added value manufacturing” that is already happening.