New ‘gigafactory’ plan for West Midlands airport

New ‘gigafactory’ plan for West Midlands airport

A huge new ‘gigafactory’ to make electric car batteries is set to be built in Coventry.

The proposals for the 4.5 million sq ft airport site, which is backed by local councils, is aiming to make sure the West Midlands is at the heart of the nation’s automotive industry and will protect tens of thousands of jobs.

The news comes just a day after Jaguar Land Rover announced it was moving to an electric future amid a long-term government clamp down on new petrol and diesel engines.

Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport have created a partnership to develop proposals for the factory at the airport and will seek planning permission this year.

The aim is to attract a car battery supplier to the site with the factory in production by 2025.

The factory is seen as key to the future of manufacturing across the West Midlands with carmakers moving their own facilities close to car battery factories.

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The batteries used to power these vehicles represent around 40 per cent of a cars’ value and are bulky and difficult to transport.

West Midlands Combined Authority is backing the Coventry plan and Mayor Andy Street is in talks with the Government about securing a share of £500 million to help make the project a reality.

He said: “This is about saying to potential partners, of whom there are a number, we are preparing the site.

“We are going to minimise the amount of delay before you can get a spade in the ground by getting on with the planning arrangements.

“Planning could take two years to do so it’s wise to get started now.

“Although it’s happening in Coventry, this has the support of the combined authority including councils such as those in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.

“It’s seen very much as a regional facility

“There are 46,000 jobs in the automotive supply chain in the West Midlands and many more in the tiers below that such as in the metal industry.”

Proposals will now be developed and a planning application submitted later this year alongside discussions with battery suppliers and automotive manufacturers to secure investment.

It is not yet known at this stage what the proposals mean for Coventry Airport but images released to the media suggest the factory would be built on its runway.

Coventry Airport does not currently offer regular passenger services and is used mainly by private planes.

There are no immediate plans to close the business.

Coventry City Council leader Coun George Duggins added: “Coventry has emerged as a world leader in battery technology.

“The city is home to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, world-leading research institutions and the UK’s largest car maker Jaguar Land Rover.

“Coventry Airport sits at the heart of this powerful automotive research cluster and is the obvious location for a UK gigafactory. It will immediately plug in to a mature automotive supply chain and skills ecosystem.

“Our partnership is unique in the UK and creates a strong platform to attract investment and deliver more than 4,000 new jobs, support our automotive sector and secure our competitive advantage.”

Andrew Bell, chief executive of Regional & City Airports which owns and manages the airport, said: “Coventry City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority have together identified Coventry Airport as the preferred site for a gigafactory.

“Coventry Airport has been working to deliver the best possible outcome for the region and is ready to back the West Midlands through a joint venture with Coventry City Council.

“We recognise what a significant opportunity this is and are backing the project with investment alongside our public sector partners. This is a ground-breaking initiative and we are excited to be a part of it.”

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