New own­ers share plans for smelter with pub­lic

The Oban Times - - NEWS - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

THE NEW own­ers of Lochaber’s smelter were in Fort Wil­liam last week de­tail­ing their plans for the site.

Lib­erty House and SIMEC, both mem­bers of GFG Al­liance, held a pub­lic drop-in ses­sion with MSP Kate Forbes last Fri­day to dis­cuss plans for a new car parts fac­tory at the smelter which will cre­ate 300 new jobs.

Around 50 peo­ple at­tended to find out what the plans will mean for the com­mu­nity.

The com­pany an­nounced a £ 330 mil­lion deal se­cur­ing the smelter last year af­ter months of un­cer­tainty over the fu­ture of the site.

The deal, which se­cured 170 jobs, in­cludes the hy­dro- elec­tric sta­tion and alu­minum smelter at Fort Wil­liam, the neigh­bour­ing hy­dro-plant at Kin­lochleven and more than 100,000 acres of es­tate land.

Over the next decade it is thought it will bring up to 2,000 di­rect and sup­ply- chain jobs to the West High­lands and boost the econ­omy by around £1 bil­lion.

The com­pany an­nounced the ex­pan­sion of metal man­u­fac­tur- ing in Fort Wil­liam say­ing ‘huge value is be­ing missed out on’.

A spokesper­son for the firm said it was fo­cus­ing on de­liv­er­ing the down­stream com­mit­ments, with the ad­di­tion of an al­loy wheel fac­tory.

He said: ‘We will be work­ing to keep the value on site– this fits with our wider strat­egy. The firm has started the plan­ning process and the next step will be con­sul­ta­tion with the lo­cal com­mu­nity.’

When asked about fur­ther de­vel­op­ments at Kin­lochleven, the spokesper­son said: ‘Fort Wil­liam is our fo­cus at the mo­ment.’ He added: ‘The feed­back from the event was pos­i­tive and peo­ple were pleased we have a sus­tain­able vi­sion for the site to en­sure its long-term fu­ture.’

GFG Al­lience has said it has started the plan­ning process for the car parts fac­tory, with con­sul­ta­tions to take place soon.

Fort Wil­liam and Ard­na­mur­chan coun­cil­lor Brian Mur­phy, who worked at the smelter for 21 years, said the plans are ‘fan­tas­tic’. ‘It’s good to see a com­pany come along that is com­mit­ted to in­vest­ing in the the place. I think do­ing the car parts here will be adding value in Fort Wil­liam which surly has to be bet­ter,’ he said.

The com­pany also plans to cre­ate a num­ber of grad­u­ate posts and ap­pren­tice­ships.

Mr Mur­phy com­mented: ‘There is a lot of busi­nesses in Lochaber cry­ing out for skilled work­ers.

‘We need more in the way of skills cour­ses lo­cally be­cause we can’t af­ford to lose our best peo­ple. We have got to try and keep them in the area.’

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Bade­noch, said: ‘I am ex­cited about what it means for the com­mu­nity in terms of jobs, homes and trans­port. This deal is go­ing to un­lock huge po­ten­tial for the com­mu­nity.’

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