Hartlepool ‘ideally placed’ for offshore wind industry future

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A COUNCIL leader says Hartlepool has long-term ambitions to become a centre of excellence in the offshore wind industry.

Hartlepool council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher says the town is ideally placed to take advantage of opportunities in the development of offshore wind farms.

He was responding to a question submitted at a full council meeting from resident Steve Latimer on claims that Hartlepool was missing out since Tees Valley Regeneration’s ambitious £1billion Victoria Harbour project failed to happen in 2010.

The 6,500 job project included plans for 3,500 new homes, 600,000 sq ft of business development, major retail and leisure projects, and new primary school on 200 acres of land between Hartlepool Marina and the Headland before the credit crunch hit.

Mr Latimer said afterwards Tees Valley Unlimited promised all effort would be made to make Hartlepool the UK’s wind turbine manufacturing hub.

But Mr Latimer said: “Since then the town has lost out to Leith in securing a major turbine manufacturing facility, we have seen a Hartlepool-based company, Able, establish a major turbine centre on Humberside and now Redcar has secured itself as the base for the 2,000- turbine Dogger Bank offshore wind farm.

“It’s now claimed that the last of these will generate an estimated 5,000 full-time jobs for the Redcar area, which will come with decent wages.”

Mr Latimer also asked: “Why has the council allowed Hartlepool to become sidelined in this latest development and should we content ourselves in preparing Hartlepool’s younger generation for a life as part-time shelf-stackers, bar staff and latte makers on zero hour contracts?”

Coun Akers-Belcher, who heads the council’s Finance and Policy Committee, said Hartlepool is home to a number of world-class businesses that work in the energy sector.

But he said: “The wind power sector forms part of this energy sector and the town has long-term aspirations to become a centre of manufacturing excellence within the offshore wind sector.”

He said the Dogger Bank development had yet to go ahead.

He said there is currently no clear plan for offshore wind and as a result there has been little investment by businesses.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “The industry has stated that if the North Sea offshore wind sector develops as originally intended there is a requirement for several major bases along the coast and Hartlepool is well placed in terms of location, infrastructure, supply chain and workforce supply.”

He added Hartlepool had already achieved a lot in the energy industry including the establishment of the Port Estate enterprise zone, which has provided skilled jobs and contracts locally.

He also cited the growth and success of town firms Heerema, JDR cables and Able UK.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I certainly believe we are doing our very best for our Hartlepool young people.”