Positive reaction despite wind power contract loss

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HARTLEPOOL is in fighting mood as it returned to the battle to clinch wind power deals.

After the devastation of missing out on an 800-job contract, dignitaries were today buoyant about the town’s future prospects.

Hartlepool Borough Council official Damien Wilson remained positive despite Spanish company Gamesa’s decision to give a £125m deal to build wind turbines to Leith near Edinburgh instead of the Tees Valley.

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Regeneration bosses are up-beat as Hartlepool made the final two out of 26 shortlisted ports, which they say makes the town the best in England.

Mr Wilson, the assistant director of regeneration and planning at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “We always knew it was a 50-50 fight, but we were always hopeful we could land it. The good news is, that out of the 26 ports shortlisted, we were the top one in England.

“And there is more than one fish in the sea. There are other investors looking to locate on the east coast and we are perfectly lined up to take advantage of that investment. It is not the end of the game.”

Pam Hargreaves, the chairman of the Hartlepool branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We were so excited by the potential this would have had. It would have really put us on the map and all the negative images that people have of Hartlepool would have been put in the history books.”

George Rafferty is the chief executive of NOF Energy, which is part of Energi Coast (the campaign group for the North East renewable energy sector which also includes JDR Cables, Heerema and Tata Steel),

He said: “The region has an excellent infrastructure and a closely integrated supply chain that would have added real value to Gamesa’s offshore renewables operations. I hope other international companies recognise the commitment the North-East has made to offshore renewables when they are looking at suitable locations for their operations as this region is very much open for business in this sector.”

John Megson, the co-ordinator of the Hartlepool Business Forum, said: “Irrespective of the knock-back, there are a lot of opportunities which should make us continue to be optimistic as to the way forward.”

There were other reasons for optimism as well, said Mr Megson.

Hartlepool did hugely well in Round 2 of the Regional Growth Fund, town firm Able received £2.2m backing towards a £16m scheme to develop a dry dock, which could eventually lead to 230 direct jobs.

And Seal Sands-based Fine Industries won £1.8m towards a planned £14m development, which could eventually mean 56 more workers.

The Hartlepool Mail told last week how 55 jobs could be created thanks to J&B Recycling which is planning a new plant which would process up to 50,000 tonnes a year of waste.

The town has also won a 33 per cent share of the Tees Valley Enterprise Zone which could mean up to 15,000 jobs.