Talks are “ongoing” to bring a new automotive company to Bridgend, where Ford will end engine production in a year’s time, Wales Economy Minister Ken Skates has told radio listeners.
WheelsWithinWales broke news of the initial plans last November to attract Ineos Automotive to Brocastle Industrial Estate and this spring Welsh Government said they were spending £10M of EU and UK funding to create a 116-acres of factory space to be ready by the middle of 2020.
The Ford Task Force, set up after the car maker announced earlier this summer that it would gradually run down and close the 40 year old engine plant, has declined to reveal what future use might be made of the 1.5M sq ft space.
When built it was the largest covered production area in Europe and its original site was over 132 acres which included parts of what are now Brocastle Estate land, Waterton technology centre and Lidl distribution hub. It spans Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend County Borough Council areas and generates millions of pounds business rates, which could be lost if no use is found for the site.
Despite numerous “non disclosure agreements” being in place surrounding development, Mr Skates told the Radio Wales audience he is “very excited about the possibility of attracting new automotive manufacturers to Bridgend, ” but would not be more specific.
It is understood from people close to the discussions that the willingness of Welsh Government to assist in providing land and contribute to training costs for a few hundred workers likely to be engaged by Ineos is a factor influencing the Ineos decision.
There is also the fact that the Brocastle Estate is immediately adjacent to the Ford boundary fence and next to a rail head and private line which feeds into the national network to currently distribute engines by rail to Europe.
The attraction of a rail hub ready to run would save any potential investor many millions of pounds investment to set up from scratch and could be used to bring supplies into the new vehicle plant during construction and production as well as export completed vehicles.
Part of the Ford building might also be utilised as a storage area as well as spin off production area for supplier parts feeding into the Ineos assembly lines for its new version of a tough off-roader similar to the original Land Rover Defender, which Ineos founder Sir Jim Radcliffe admires.
Land Rover is also planning to unveil its new Defender in a few weeks and has shown images (right) from engineering test mules, so the Ineos Projekt Grenadier will have a rival when it goes into production in 2020.