Gigafactory – further plans revealed

Further plans for the proposed Gigafactory at Coventry Airport have been released as part of a marketing campaign to attract global investment in the scheme.  The development is now being marketed as the West Midland Gigafactory.

The project is a public/private joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd. If approved, the Gigafactory will begin supplying high-tech batteries for electric vehicles from 2025.

To get the green light, the project requires a major investor to come on board. The project will require a £2.5bn investment and could create up to 6,000 skilled jobs directly and potentially thousands more in the wider supply chain in Coventry and the surrounding region. The team behind it say they are continuing to explore investment opportunities with battery manufacturers around the world.

The proposed Gigafactory, if it went ahead as described, would be over half a million square metres of space – equivalent to 74 full-size football pitches and would be one of the largest single industry facilities of any kind in the UK. At full capacity it would be capable of delivering up to 60GWh of production per year. The facility would also be able to recycle used batteries as well as build new ones in an approach known as ‘cradle to cradle’.

The factory would be powered by a planned major boost to the local energy network, giving the Gigafactory access to a 100% renewable electricity supply, from a combination of solar power and grid-supplied renewables. The West Midlands Gigafactory will be able to recycle used batteries as well as build new ones in an industry leading approach known as “cradle to cradle.”

The proposed West Midlands Gigafactory has support from an alliance of West Midlands industrial groups, local government and academic institutions. This alliance includes the West Midlands Combined Authority, Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Council, Warwick Manufacturing Group at University of Warwick, Coventry University and the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Based at Coventry Airport, the Gigafactory will be adjacent to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, part of the UK’s Faraday Challenge. The Centre provides a critical link between research at laboratory or prototype stages and the successful mass production of new battery technologies. It has recently announced an expansion creating 30 new jobs.

Coventry Airport was first opened in 1936 by Coventry City Council which continues to own the freehold of the site. It operated as RAF Baginton during the Second World War and commercial passenger flights were subsequently reinstated until 2009. Rigby Group plc acquired the long leasehold in 2010 and it remains in its ownership.

An outline planning proposal for the West Midlands Gigafactory was submitted in July and the application is yet to be determined. If the project does not go ahead, the airport will close anyway and the land instead used for warehousing and business.

The plans for the gigafactory have not received universal affirmation. Objections have been raised by companies based at the airport. Sky Harbour UK Limited has lodged a formal objection to planning applications with Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council.

In its letter of objection it states a number of concerns, including: the application being speculative with no defined end user; the closure of the airport; the application being in conflict with the Government Policy for levelling up and directly impacts on their business and those of prospective investors; the potential economic damage to the region which includes Sky Harbour being unable to support the Commonwealth Games; and the lack of thought and recognition of the significant historical importance of Coventry Airport.

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