Isle of Wight Council PR 1470 27/08/2009 [For Immediate Release]
MP and Council tell SEEDA: apply stringent conditions to Vestas
The Island’s MP and the Isle of Wight Council Leader have called for safeguards to be put in place to ensure that a brand new Vestas facility, to be supported with substantial public money, provides long-term benefits to the local economy.
On behalf of the Island community, Andrew Turner MP and Cllr David Pugh have written to the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), requesting that the site of the recently closed manufacturing plant at St Cross be released by Vestas before public money is used to support their new Research & Development facility at Stag Lane, which is currently owned by SEEDA.
The letter follows final confirmation that Vestas is to close its UK production facilities at St Cross – with a loss of over 400 jobs on the Island.
Mr Turner and Cllr Pugh also urge SEEDA and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to ensure that their proposed £6m grant funding to Vestas will be subject to appropriate conditions, to demonstrate that this public investment would be to the long-term benefit of the Island’s economy.
Their letter to SEEDA Chief Executive Pam Alexander states:
“We are increasingly concerned at the lack of jobs available for the highly skilled workforce which has been made redundant.
“Whilst we welcome the proposed jobs for the R&D facility at Stag Lane, we are concerned that Vestas appear reluctant to release the St Cross site for alternative use.
“There are a number of firms interested in expanding renewable energy technology on the Island and we consider that the vacated St Cross premises offer potential for the location of this work, with the possibility of providing alternative employment for the redundant workers, which is something we all want to achieve.”
The MP and the council also highlight the shortage of wharves on the Island available for current and future economic development. Under current plans Vestas will have use – in some cases exclusive use – of three of only five sites on the River Medina capable of handling seagoing cargos when the Stag Lane site is complete.
“We consider that there is an urgent need to review the availability of wharves and we are keen to explore with SEEDA how to best secure their long-term accessibility for the benefit of the Island’s economy, rather than a single company,” the letter states.
“There is a real danger that Vestas may wish to hold their present sites, with associated wharves, to the exclusion of others, while their activities are reduced to a token presence providing only limited employment. This would be inappropriate given the considerable investment from public funds that has gone into both sites.”
The MP and the council call on SEEDA to consider a right of way for general use from Stag Lane to the Cement Mills wharf, and to consider a similar set-up for their land at Venture Quays (East Cowes), which is also currently used by Vestas.
On the issue of the proposed £6m investment, the letter states:
“We would welcome the public announcement of certain key conditions of the public investment, such as the number of jobs that will be created and outline details about any clawback conditions.”
The council and Island MP have requested a meeting with SEEDA to discuss their concerns in advance of the terms for the Stag Lane facility being finalised.
Andrew Turner said:
“Ole Borup Jakobsen, the President of Vestas Blades has made it clear that closing the manufacturing facility at St Cross was a straightforward commercial decision and they will only consider manufacturing in the UK (but not specifically on the Island) again “if this market develops into a strong and stable market”. Rob Sauven the Managing Director of Vestas Technology believes this is unlikely to happen before 2015. Even more worrying, the British Wind Energy Association says the UK market is too small to sustain a home-grown factory in the long term. Islanders need jobs now as well as in the future, and it is important that the Government and SEEDA consider the long term interests of the Island. These are perfectly reasonable proposals and I trust our concerns will be taken into account.”
Cllr George Brown, IW Council Cabinet Member for the Economy, added:
“The net movement of good quality jobs is a key measurement of the Island’s economy. The recent decision of the Vestas Group has put hundreds of people out of work. Their various statements about future operations on three key Island sites – St Cross, Venture Quays and Stag Lane – were not reassuring in terms of job numbers, especially in the technically skilled sector. These concerns are shared strongly by those protesting on behalf of redundant Vestas staff and their families. What we all want is to tackle job losses now.
“I hope and expect that SEEDA will react positively to the MP and Council Leader, preventing key regeneration sites and their associated wharves from stagnating with low job occupancy. The renewable energy industry on the Island must advance. This is the perfect location for it and we have skilled and dedicated people here ready to make it a success.”
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