One of the headline projects at the vast Teesworks site has collapsed, taking the promise of more than 2,000 jobs with it.

GE Renewables, which Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen had said would "play a central role in our ambitions" has exclusively told The Northern Echo it will not be proceeding with its turbine blades factory alongside the new 450m South Bank Quay being built now.

Just a day after the launch of the £400m SeAH Wind plant at Teesworks, GE told us: “While we are not moving forward with plans for a Teesside facility due to lack of volume, we remain committed to supporting the growth of UK offshore wind, including powering what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank.” 

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

But Ben Houchen brushed aside any concerns about the loss, telling GE: "If you snooze, you lose."

There is uncertainty about whether this is a permanent move or there is still the possibility of a return at some stage, but the news is certainly a blow for the mayor as GE had taken so many of the headlines and been the subject of so much enthusiastic comment as Teesworks started to take shape.

No guarantees


But the lack of a guarantee of future projects that they could supply into has hit GE's plans at Teesside. They had built their ambitions around them taking a large slice of the blades market, but that has not happened at the level they needed as competitors such as Siemens won contracts.

Ben Houchen told us today: "As we showed yesterday with our ground breaking on SeAH’s mammoth £400million offshore wind facility, bringing 2,250 well-paid, good-quality jobs, the site has entered a new phase, with huge areas across the vast 4,500 acres, remediated and investor-ready. This includes that land earmarked for GE.

“GE have been dragging their feet for some time now. We’ve pushed and we’re ready to go to build the facility. At my last meeting with GE I informed them that due to the massive interest from multiple would-be investors they need to hurry up as we're ready to go and if you snooze, you lose.

Not competitive


“Unfortunately, it would seem they haven’t been competitive enough to secure orders with potential clients. We continue to stand ready to welcome them on site in the future, but they’ll have to move quickly if they want to come to the first and largest freeport because the site is filling up fast.”

The Northern Echo understands that as GE waivered, their site was given to SeAH instead, who were keen to move quickly. GE was offered a neighbouring site as a replacement, but has now pulled out completely.

The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen at TeesworksBen Houchen at Teesworks

GE's rethink about their plans started back in December when a spokesperson told us: “GE Renewable Energy’s LM Wind Power business is currently facing delays in the finalisation of the leasing agreement and design to open its new blade manufacturing plant in Teesside".

Read more:  Ben Houchen dismisses rumours GE delaying Teesworks site plans

But Mayor Houchen had robustly hit back, saying: "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. As far as we are aware, the project is progressing at pace."

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

The whole site is still as important as ever, with SeAH stepping into the GE gap as the flagship project for Teesworks, and only a few months ago, The Echo exclusively revealed another major offshore wind company was on the verge of opening a new factory in the North East, bringing 1,000 jobs to the region. The large international investor, which could not be named due to a non-disclosure agreement, makes subsea cables for the offshore wind industry.

The Northern Echo: Work on the new quayWork on the new quay

In December last year, the mayor told a South Tees Development Corporation board meeting there were high hopes for the whole of Teesworks: "There are between 20 and 30 big investors that are either at heads of terms negotiations, or are in legals with us.”

The mayor admitted then that some of the 20 to 30 firms with interest would “drop off naturally” if heads of terms couldn’t be agreed.

The Northern Echo: How the GE plant would have lookedHow the GE plant would have looked

When the original GE plans were announced they were the key plank of the Teesworks  project with the mayor saying: "Once completed, it will play a central role in our ambitions to become a powerhouse in the growing UK offshore wind sector and add a huge amount to our clean energy credentials."

Olivier Fontan, President & CEO of LM Wind Power, had said: “There is still a lot of work in front of us but this an important milestone for the construction and future opening of the facility. We are proud of the contribution we will be making in rejuvenating this industrial cluster and helping it play a key role in future of renewable energy.”

Dogger Bank effect


One of those affected by the apparent collapse of the project will be the Dogger Bank offshore wind farm which was planning to use blades produced at Teesworks. When complete in 2026, Dogger Bank will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

A spokesperson said: “We are obviously disappointed that GE Offshore Wind is not progressing with its plans for a blade facility at Teesside.

"We continue to work closely with GE and our other lead suppliers and contractors to support the growth of the UK offshore wind supply chain and associated jobs.

"To date, over 1,250 UK jobs have been supported or created by the construction and operation of Dogger Bank Wind Farm, the majority of which are across the North East of England, and we expect further jobs to be announced as we continue to construct all three phases of the wind farm and build the team that will support its anticipated 35 year operational life.”