Smelter bosses reveal plans to create manufacturing hub
A COMMUNITY consultation is to take place as the new owner of the aluminium smelter in Fort William gets to work on making its plans a reality.
Liberty British Aluminium, part of the GFG Alliance, aims to make the town a key vehicle component manufacturing hub by expanding the local aluminium smelter into a major low-carbon engineering complex, employing many hundreds of people.
This vision of the future was outlined to Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, and Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, during an in-depth fact-finding visit to the plant last week (Wednesday April 12).
They were shown the site of Liberty’s planned new components factory, which will process aluminium from the smelter into high-specification alloy wheels and other vehicle parts.
It was also revealed a community consultation will begin shortly on the planning application for the new plant that will create 300 direct and 300 supply- chain jobs as part of the £120m first phase of an investment by Liberty and sister company SIMEC.
SIMEC is supplying hydro and bio-diesel power to the plant under GFG’s low-carbon GREENMETAL strategy. Follow-up investments by the GFG Alliance in other industrial operations in the area are expected to increase the number of new jobs to 1,000 direct and 1,000 indirect over the next decade.
Brian King, managing director Lochaber operations for Liberty and SIMEC, said: ‘We are hugely encouraged by the interest and support shown by Kate and Ian. This spirit of partnership is exactly what we need in order to make this venture a big success for the local and regional economy.’
Mr Blackford said: ‘When you look at the vision that Liberty and its management have, there is no doubt in my mind that what they are doing is good for Lochaber and the Highlands.
‘Plans for the new Liberty industrial facilities in Lochaber are proceeding rapidly, with the real prospect of re-industrialisation of the Highlands bringing very much needed jobs and an economic boost.
‘With this number of jobs, we must take a real look at infrastructure and what will be needed, not least in providing new homes for the many people who will work here.
‘This has to start now. We must work with Liberty to keep pace with what they are doing and ensure that a workforce can be accommodated where and when it is needed.’
Ms Forbes added: ‘I am excited about Liberty’s plans for the smelter because it could make the Highlands the centre for production of car components. The potential for jobs is enormous and I hope the benefits of increased economic activity will spread throughout Lochaber communities. I am pleased that Liberty has not just talked about plans, already actively turning its plans into reality.
‘The faster that Liberty gets started, the quicker we’ll see the benefits. I’m working closely with Liberty and others to make sure that there are no obstacles to slow down progress. We need jobs, more housing and better roads and I hope these plans unlock huge potential for the Highlands.’ Leader comment – page eight.
MP Ian Blackford and MSP Kate Forbes are shown around the Fort William smelter.