Coventry City Council regeneration chief said a gigafactory project to build batteries for electric cars at Coventry Airport is a “crucial investment” after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was accused of using a lobbying body to oppose it.
Councilor Jim O’Boyle spoke out following a Sunday Times article which claimed Mr Shapps had set up and diverted public funds to a new team within the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which lobbies against developments that would lead to the closure. aerodromes.
The Sunday November 14 report, which was widely circulated in UK media, claims that the CAA airfield advisory team opposed the gigafactory plan that was proposed at Coventry Airport.
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Cllr O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change at City Council, said: “As we embark on the Green Industrial Revolution, the proposed West Midlands gigafactory is a crucial investment that will propel the future of the automotive industry.
“It is strategically placed at the heart of the UK auto industry, to create long-term stability for manufacturing as we move towards an electrified future.
“Delivery of gigafactories to the UK is government policy and a West Midlands gigafactory is supported at the highest level.
“We must now work with the government and all relevant ministries to implement this policy. However, it must be in a position of trust and mutual understanding.
Cllr O’Boyle also justified the closure of Coventry Airport if the gigafactory were to go ahead, adding: “With Coventry Airport being used primarily for amateur light aircraft, it is clear that its reassignment is warranted. when you consider the significant benefits of the investment, 6,000 of the direct jobs and thousands more in the supply chain that a gigafactory will bring both in the West Midlands and more broadly in the UK. “
The Sunday Times report said Mr Shapps, who owns his own £ 100,000 plane, visited Coventry airport himself recently, according to flight data.
Additionally, lobbyists are fighting the Coventry gigafactory plan, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson praising the proposal which would create thousands of jobs and help achieve the government’s net zero ambitions.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also backed Coventry’s plan during a visit to Coventry Airport in April, when he met West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who is a strong supporter of the project .
Mr Kwarteng told CoventryLive that having a gigafactory in Coventry “makes a lot of sense”.
An urban planning request for the gigafactory was submitted in July of this year.
The Civil Aviation Authority has formally opposed the Coventry Airport gigafactory project.
The CAA Airfield Advisory Team formally opposed the planning requests, saying Coventry Airport is a valuable and busy General Aviation (GA) aerodrome that is also home to a number of air ambulances. .
The gigafactory plan is a joint venture between Coventry City Council and the Rigby Group, which owns Coventry Airport.
It is still in its early stages, but if the green light was given, it would lead to the closure of the airport.
In response to the Sunday Times report, officials from the Department of Transportation (DfT) said the CAA advisory team was not a lobbying body and provided “general aviation support on a range of issues. affecting their operations ”.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said: “It is right that the Secretary of Transport is trying to promote all aspects of the ministry file, including the general aviation sector, which contributes 4 billion pounds. sterling to the economy and supports 40,000 jobs, especially as we focus on our recovery from the pandemic and building a diverse workforce that is ready for the future. ”
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