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'Gigafactory' plan for green belt site near M54

By Dominic Robertson | Telford | Business | Published:

A car battery factory with the potential to bring 3,000 new jobs to the region is being planned for land close to the M54.

An aerial view showing land owned by the Bradford Estates next to Junction 3 of the M54. Photo: Google

A green belt site close to the border of Shropshire and Staffordshire, and just eight miles from the Jaguar Land Rover factory at the i54 on the edge of Wolverhampton, is being put forward as a potential location for the ‘gigafactory’.

The project could be worth more than £1bn to the region’s economy, bringing much-needed jobs and cementing the West Midlands’ reputation as a centre of excellence for the car industry.

The Department for International Trade has been looking for a UK site where firms could build a giant gigafactory, making lithium-ion batteries for electric cars as the market is predicted to increase dramatically in coming years.

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A potential site for the factory has now been put forward on land owned by Bradford Estates, off Junction 3 of the M54.

The Bradford Estates has been seeking council backing to build up to 3,000 homes and commercial land in what would effectively be a new town to the north of the M54 and the west of Tong.

However, the organisation says it has also been working with Shropshire Council on a submission to the government as a potential site for the factory.

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Viscount Alexander Newport, managing director of Bradford Estates, said: “I can confirm we have been working with Shropshire Council on its submission to the Department for International Trade outlining our J3 development site as the potential location for a gigafactory.

“We were very pleased to be asked to help and believe that this type of project would be a huge shot in the arm for Shropshire and the wider local economy at a time when both county and country need to be focused on the post-Covid recovery."

Shropshire Council has yet to decide on whether to support the Bradford Estates plans.

When contacted about whether it had submitted the bid, a council spokesman said: “For confidentiality reasons we’re unable to comment at this stage, but any such proposals would be subject to inclusion in the local plan.”

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West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has been keen to bring a gigafactory to the region with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying his government would "back that vision" in a major speech in Dudley earlier this week.

Mr Street said: “It is no secret that I am determined to bring a gigafactory to the West Midlands, and I was very encouraged by the Prime Minister’s words in Dudley last week when he said he would back our region’s vision to become a global centre of battery technology.

“Not only will a gigafactory bring substantial investment into the region, but it will also help create and safeguard thousands of local jobs – both directly and in the automotive supply chain.”

Lord Newport, whose plans for the site have already attracted significant opposition, said it could be of “strategic regional, if not national, importance”.

He said: “We believe our proposal for J3, which would deliver 8,000 jobs through 1.8 million sq ft of new commercial space and 3,000 sustainably developed new homes, while injecting an additional £390 million a year into the local economy, is exactly the type of project the Government has in mind when it talks about the essential upgrades to Britain’s infrastructure and skills that are needed to fuel economic recovery across the UK.

“Furthermore, the application clearly shows that Shropshire Council understands that J3 is a site of strategic regional, if not national, importance, particularly as we understand that this is the only one they have put forward.”

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