TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has furiously denied claims that the future of the vital GE turbine blades factory at Teesworks is in doubt.

The plant has been key evidence used by the Mayor's team to show that the Freeport, Teesworks, the whole future blueprint for the region was working and was attracting global attention and investment.

But rumours had started that GE was getting cold feet over its lease after a pipeline  of future work was put at risk by rival bids.

Read more: New UK Infrastructure Bank to invest £107million in Teesworks’ South Bank Quay

But Houchen hit back last night, telling The Northern Echo: “The Labour Party thought Christmas had come early today with bad news for Teesside. Unfortunately, the usual suspects were out in force spreading rumours around the progress of the GE facility on Teesside.

"I can confirm that GE are completely committed to coming to Teesside and we continue to work with them to finalise legal agreements and factory building specifications. Preparation of the site is almost ready and construction of the factory will start early next year. 

The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen launches the FreeportBen Houchen launches the Freeport

“GE has won contracts to build offshore wind blades on the basis that they make them in Teesside, as has also been confirmed by Equinor who gave GE the contract for the blades. “As far as we are aware, the project is progressing at pace and as we expected having had meetings with GE as recently as this week.”

The huge 76,200sq m facility was in the South Bank zone of the vast Teesworks site, with construction underway for a 2023 completion.

LM Wind Power, part of GE renewable energy, will operate the facility, which will be dedicated to the production of its 107-metre-long offshore wind turbine blades. These are a key component of GE’s Haliade-X, the most powerful offshore wind turbine and used at Dogger Bank, the world’s largest wind farm, located just 80 miles off the North East coast.

Read more: Green light for 2,000-job wind turbines plant on Teesside

When the  UK Infrastructure Bank backed the plans with more than £100m for a new quay, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:  “This is a vote of confidence in the Tees Valley economy and our new freeports that will help turbocharge Britain’s post-Brexit growth.”

Redcar MP Jacob Young said the project was "part of the reason we were able to secure GE’s new wind turbine manufacturing on Tees.

“These decisions don’t happen by accident," he added.

So any idea that it was at risk would have been the biggest challenge Houchen has faced and a huge test for other investors looking at the region as the next renewables capital.

The rumours first surfaced in Renewable Energy News, which claimed that GE was putting its plans 'on ice' because it was concerned about future business prospects after stiff competition from Siemens swooped in to get key windfarm contracts. GE would have wanted assurances that there was enough work left to keep its new plant busy.


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