Gigafactory gets green light

Last week the proposed battery manufacturing Gigafactory on Coventry Airport was given the green light by both Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council.

Outline Planning applications were approved in principle by the Planning Committees of both Councils at separate meetings last week. Outline planning permission will be formally issued once the associated legal agreement has been signed and government has been consulted. This is expected in March 2022. There remains a possibility that the Government will “call in” the application.

There were a large number of objections to the project from surrounding Parish Councils, residents, countryside organisations, companies based at the airport and airport supporting organisations. The All Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation complained that the airport owner is already removing navigational equipment from the airport and that there is an existing shortfall of airport capacity in the West Midlands. The nearest airport which could pick up the lost trade is Wellesbourne, which is also under threat.

It is claimed that the Gigafactory which will result in £2.5bn investment, creating up to 6,000 new highly skilled jobs directly alongside thousands more in the wider supply chain in Coventry, Warwickshire and the surrounding region.

It is hoped that the factory will be production ready from 2025. The 530,000sqm facility will manufacture high-tech lithium-ion batteries for the global automotive and energy storage industries. The Gigafactory will have capacity to deliver up to 60GWh by the end of the decade. It will also recycle used batteries in what is described as a “cradle-to-cradle” approach.

Mike Murray, Project Director commented, “This is an important milestone for the West Midlands Gigafactory. With outline planning permission supported, the site has everything in place that future investors, likely to be drawn from the global battery industry, need for a state-of-the-art Gigafactory. Thanks to this decision, we are now in strong position to progress our discussions with the global automotive and energy storage industries.

“Located at the heart of the UK’s automotive industry, the Gigafactory is closer to almost every car manufacturing plant in the UK than any of the other proposed or Gigafactories under construction making it an ideal location for global battery manufacturers.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This is another crucial step forward in bringing our plans for a West Midlands Gigafactory to life.

“Not only will a Gigafactory support the future of our region’s automotive sector, creating thousands of new jobs, but it will also help protect our planet from the climate change emergency. It truly would be a game-changer, and I am delighted both Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council have recognised this and backed our vision.”

Powered by 100% renewable energy, plans for the Gigafactory include one of the UK’s largest rooftop arrays of photovoltaic panels to harness solar power to operate the factory. The site includes facilities to store any excess solar energy for use when its needed.

The Gigafactory will adopt a Net Zero transport and logistics strategy with excellent access to the UK’s motorway network as well as electrified road and rail options saving seven million miles of HGV traffic on roads annually.

West Midlands Gigafactory is a public-private joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd. It has support from an alliance of West Midlands industrial groups, local government and academic institutions.

There is still no identified investor for the project, but it is hoped that having planning permission will increase the chance of finding an investor with deep pockets. Other regions of the country are also “bidding” to host the Gigafactory. It is understood that if the Gigafactory does not go ahead, the site will be used for large scale warehousing and the airport will close anyway.

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