Onshore building site for turbines approved

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Plans for a flagship renewable energy plant in Hull which will help to establish the region as a centre for the UK offshore wind industry have cleared one of their final hurdles.

Councillors in Hull approved plans for the £210m Green Port Hull development, a joint project between Associated British Ports and Europe’s largest engineering company, Siemens, which could create thousands of new jobs.

Negotiations between the companies continue, with a deal expected to be finalised later this year.

The proposals now have to go to the Secretary of State for approval and would then be subject to a three-month “judicial review period” in which the public can challenge the decision on technical grounds.

However if all goes well, construction could begin on site at the city’s Alexandra Dock early next year.

Port director Matt Jukes said the decision took them “a very big step forward towards delivering this game-changing project for the port, the city and our region.”

Siemens project manager Dan McGrail said it was a “major milestone” for what was the firm’s “primary” investment in offshore wind: “It is absolutely critical we have that planning consent and we are now on a clear path to having that agreed. Today was a major hurdle, the next phase is to ensure that this goes through the statutory process, which will take towards the end of the year.”

The applications granted yesterday allow buildings at Alexandra Dock to be demolished and a factory, office and a helipad to be built, along with areas for the storage, handling, assembling and testing of wind turbine components.

As well as creating as many as 300 construction jobs, the plant, which will assemble the turbines and make the nacelle component, which converts the blades’ rotation into electricity, will employ 700 engineering workers and potentially support thousands of other jobs in associated industries.

The 6MW turbines – standing the size of London’s Gherkin building – will then shipped out to the North Sea for installation.

Sam Pick, the director of the Renewables Network, which represents 200 renewable energy companies on both banks of the Humber, said small businesses needed to appreciate the scale of the opportunity offered and the tight timescales involved.

Mr Pick said local companies were “fixated” on Siemens but pointed out other projects were happening now – including the Humber Gateway offshore windfarm – a project in itself which aims to create up to 1,000 jobs during construction. A “phenomenal” 400 companies have registered to attend a “meet the buyer” event in Hull today, hosted by the developer E.ON.

Mr Pick said: “In terms of its project value Humber Gateway is greater than Siemens and Green Port Hull.

“It is all about momentum and critical mass. There is a point after which we will be having a whole string of projects along the East Coast moving forward and that creates momentum of itself.

“There are two things that small businesses need which can be summed up by culture and capacity. They need to operate in the culture that the wind industry has, which has very strict standards, and they have to grow with the industry. A lot of small businesses will struggle to keep the capacity to keep growing with the industry.”