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Mean on Monday: a step forward for the automotive industry

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By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director & vice chair GFirstLEP

Former Chancellor George Osborne closed his 2011 Budget speech by setting out his aspiration for “a Britain carried aloft by the March of the Makers”.

Nothing really substantial came from that rallying cry to manufacturing  industry in the ensuing years. Until last week.

That was when the Government decided to invest something like £500 million-it could be as much as a billion pounds- into Jaguar Land Rover’s new £ 4 billion gigafactory at the Gravity site at Bridgwater in Somerset.

We have seen the United States, China and the EU support their industry with huge investment-particularly into their green, net zero economies.

So, it is good to see our Government realising how important it is to build a new battery factory to power a new generation of electric vehicles.

Far better to build here on our own doorstep with a British brand leader than have them take the plant to Europe.

While I think the UK has been behind the curve on the electric vehicle revolution, Jaguar Land Rover have now put an important stake in the ground with its battery plant plans which could create up to 7,500 jobs.

The experts say that Britain needs 100 gigawatts (GW) of battery capacity by 2030 and double again by 2040.

But the 40GW Tata factory in Somerset and Nissan’s 7.5GW expansion in Sunderland will take us only a quarter of this important journey.

And Parliament’s battery hearings have been told it would require £5 billion of state funding to draw in the  necessary £15 billion of private investment.

The factory site just down the M5  will be a very welcome boost for this region’s firms for the Jaguar Land Rover supply chain.

And our nearby universities and  colleges mean that JLR will now have a pool of local talent it can work with to ensure our region plays an integral role in supporting young people to develop the right skills to further boost our economy.

This is a great step forward for the British automotive industry, and a big fillip for recruitment in the South West.

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