Time for winds of change

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MAJOR barriers are preventing Hartlepool from getting the top-level jobs boost it needs, says the town’s Mayor.

And in a letter to the Business Secretary Vince Cable, Stuart Drummond has called for the Government to “re-evaluate its position and drive forward the offshore wind market in a clear and coherent manner.”

Yet ironically, on the very day Mr Drummond revealed his demand for talks to the Hartlepool Mail, came news of a new Government project.

Its Call For Views initiative calls on firms in the wind energy sector to list their priorities for reform.

The initiative identifies the offshore wind industry as a major engine of economic growth in Britain. By 2021, more than 47,000 people will be working in the offshore wind energy sector, including the supply chain. The Business Secretary Vince Cable set out his vision committing to a long term partnership between Government and industry, with a focus on offshore wind.

This week’s Government news came only days after Hartlepool’s Mayor demanded talks with Mr Cable to come up with a policy which would “benefit the UK economy as a whole”.

Mr Drummond spoke out after claiming the Government’s unclear stance on wind power was making potential investors cagy about coming to town.

He said those hurdles were “damaging Hartlepool’s aspirations to deliver transformational change to the local economy and indeed the town itself.”

He highlighted issues which included:

l An “apparent lack of clear Government policy” on wind power which, he said, had created a lack of confidence in the market place.

He said he was aware of companies which had been offered money under the Regional Growth Fund scheme to come to Hartlepool but they indicated they “might be unable to take the RGF offer up as they feel unable to invest at this time due to long term market uncertainties and a lack of coherent national position that is needed to stimulate such investment.”

He said the decision of Spanish wind turbine manufacturers Gamesa to choose Leith in Scotland over Hartlepool could be down to “a lack of a clear national position on offshore wind” whereas the Scottish offer was much clearer.

Mr Drummond called for a “simple and coherent process for negotations.”

l Barriers facing energy producers in the North-East. Mr Drummond claimed the transmission costs for a North East energy producer were ten times higher than those of South East counterparts.

He said Hartlepool was hopefully going to get a new 750-job power station but he added: “Although the site is earmarked for such a development, I believe our ambitions could be thwarted by the cost of energy transmission.”

Mr Drummond called for “a major national strategy” which recognises the need to develop nuclear facilities in areas that need “continued stimulus.”

His letter concluded: “I would very much welcome the opportunity to have detailed discussions on these matters with a view to establishing a mutual beneficial relationship to achieve our ambitions for long term sustainable economic growth and prosperity which will benefit not only Hartlepool and the Tees Valley, but the UK economy as a whole.”

Mr Drummond also sent his strongly worded letter on December 3 to Chancellor George Osborne and Energy Minister John Hayes.

But he told the Hartlepool Mail: “I am awaiting a reply from all.”

l MAYOR on Wednesday: See Page 27