A GOVERNMENT pledge to spend £1bn on 18 offshore wind farms, including one on Teesside, was last night hailed as a coup for the region.

In a drive to safeguard the environment, the Government has put forward the plan to quadruple the amount of electricity Britain produces from wind, providing enough power for more than 1m homes.

In the North-East, this will mean about 120,000 homes being supplied by a wind farm off the coast between Hartlepool and Redcar. The project will involve the siting of up to 30 turbines on a plant capable of a 60-megawatt output. It will be developed by Northern Electric and Gas, which has gained permission for the farm from the Crown Estates, landowner of the UK's territorial seabed.

Julian Kenyon, Northern Electric's public affairs manager, said: "The Port of Tees, and Teesside generally, are ideally placed to provide support for the project during the construction and operational phases of the wind farm, which will benefit the local economy.

"The British Wind Energy Association is predicting 8,000 new jobs, potentially rising to 35,000. Hopefully, some of them will be factored into the North-East."

The company applied to build the £60m to £70m farm to help it achieve its Renewable Obligation to the Government, under which it has promised to supply ten per cent of its power from green sources by 2010.

Construction should start in 2004-5, provided planning permission is granted, and Northern Electric hopes to sign a 22-year lease.

News of the development follows the announcement of a feasibility study for another wind farm, capable of supplying 45,000 homes, on land owned by steelmaker Corus.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council leader, Councillor Dave Walsh, said: "This is exciting news running alongside the announcement made earlier this week and it reflects my view that we shouldn't just be siting wind farms, we should be manufacturing them."