Developer defends Yorkshire Energy Park proposals

Paul Sewell the MD of the Sewell Group in Hull. Picture by Simon Hulme
Paul Sewell the MD of the Sewell Group in Hull. Picture by Simon Hulme
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A Yorkshire developer has defended controversial plans for a £200m energy park in the region, which he said would attract new inward investment.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Paul Sewell, managing director of Hull-based Sewell Group, said the proposed Yorkshire Energy Park would send an ‘important message’ that Hull and Humber is open for business.

The plans for the former aerodrome site are expected to move forward in the next few months when the application goes before East Riding of Yorkshire Council in the summer.

The proposed one million sq ft development, which is located within the boundary of Preston South village, includes a gas-fired power station, a data centre and battery storage facility, light industry, storage and distribution units, an education campus and relocated community sports facilities.

Mr Sewell claims it could create as many as 1,000 jobs and major companies including E.ON, Legal and General and Vodafone have expressed their support.

But while the plans have been welcomed by the business community, hundreds of people in Hedon and the surrounding area, are fighting against it, determined to protect the greenfield site, the last remaining barrier between the town and Hull.

Natural England and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust also raised objections because of its impact on more than 200 curlews, the largest European wading birds, whose numbers are in sharp decline.

Mr Sewell said: “Any big employment site will have both opposition and support but it’s a pretty exciting development. All businesses are supporting it and a lot of local residents support it because it’s providing sports facilities.”

He added: “This development is really important to send a message that Hull and Humber is open for business, introducing new inward investment.”

Following consultation, a green buffer zone has been extended to maintain a gap between Hedon and the proposed development, and create a nature zone. Traffic management and flood mitigation have also been taken into account under the plans.

Earlier this week, a commercial land deal for the scheme was agreed on land disposal issues between site owner Hull City Council.

Sewell and Eco Parks have partnered with London-based Chiltern, a national renewable energy, infrastructure and technology project developer, to deliver the proposed scheme.

If it gets the go-ahead, the energy park will be the biggest single development in Sewell Group’s 142-year history.

The company, which is one of Hull’s biggest employers with 460 staff, specialises in building and managing education and healthcare schemes.

Last month, it was named in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list in the UK. “You have to be a great place to work before you can be a great company to deal with,” Mr Sewell said.

He acknowledged there was a shortage of skills in the industry but added: “I think a lot of businesses are lazy. They expect the finished article to walk into the business. We get people at 16 and put them through their qualifications and education.”

Mr Sewell said Brexit uncertainty was a big challenge for the industry. “It’s not doing the economy any good,” he added. “The interest in the Yorkshire Energy Park is bucking that trend but most people are wanting to see what Brexit deal we get. Economies need confidence.

“We are in the most uncertain era I have known in my 40-year career but entrepreneurs thrive on uncertainties.”