Westfield developer denies “cynical” power plant claim

© Supplied
The former opencast site at Westfield

Construction of a gas-fuelled power plant is essential to regenerate the former Westfield opencast site, developers say.

Iain Cockburn, from site owner Hargreaves Services, said plans for a green energy park and industrial estate could not progress without an on-site power station to generate electricity.

The statement comes after local MSP Mark Ruskell criticised the company for submitting plans for the station just days after planning permission in principle was awarded for the massive regeneration project.

Describing the firm’s actions as “cynical”, Mr Ruskell said the application went against the spirit of the company’s green intentions for the site.

However, Mr Cockburn, Hargreaves’ Group Finance Director, refuted the claim, saying: “It firmly remains our intention to develop Westfield for a range of green energy, recycling, and employment uses and we are actively raising capital to support over £200m of investment to develop the core renewable energy projects on the site.

“The site does not have any electricity or gas connection and has not had these for decades.

“Just about any industrial activity, including the main energy plant envisaged in the masterplan, will require connection to grid and the gas network so the sooner that is in place the better.

“Although this project would not itself bring significant jobs, it would bring £14m of investment to the site and would pave the way for other projects that do bring jobs.”

Councillors approved redevelopment plans last month which will see the 423-hectare Westfield site transformed with units for light industry, sitting alongside a huge solar farm.

Having sat dormant since mining ceased in 1998, Durham-based Hargreaves Services say that around 1,000 construction jobs will be created over a 10-year period, with the completed complex sustaining around 1,500 full-time posts.

Mr Cockburn added: “We strongly refute that we have acted cynically or that the proposed engines are inconsistent with the renewable energy theme.

“We have been open with the council and are not deviating from the overall masterplan objectives.

“Many people have tried and failed over the last thirty years to re-generate Westfield and we will seek and take every opportunity to make that regeneration happen.”