A former bomb-making factory in Somerset is set for a new future as an energy park, which should create hundreds of jobs.
The old Royal Ordnance Factory at Puriton, near Bridgwater, was opened during the re-armament period before the Second World War and employed 1,000 people at its peak, but closed in 2008. Now Sedgemoor District Council wants it to tap into the need for green energy.
Yesterday, Sedgemoor’s Executive recommended the full council to approve new Energy Park status. Owner BAE Systems is set to put forward a planning application in June this year.
While the park will take years to develop it could eventually cover 90 hectares. The land has been identified for a range of uses, with priority being given to renewable or low-carbon energy generation and other energy-related or complimentary green technologies and support services.
The council will work with interested parties to develop an overall masterplan for the site and for essential infrastructure.
When consultation on the venture began, nearby residents and parish councils feared it would create traffic chaos on local roads as, although the site is close to junction 23 of the M5, there is no direct access from the motorway.
Sedgemoor planners have taken the criticisms on board and say there must be wide-ranging consideration of alternative access routes and of addressing existing traffic problems in neighbouring villages. Reinstating the former rail link to the site will also be considered.
Much work will need to be done to clean up the land and put in infrastructure, but if good progress is made it could provide short-term accommodation for supply chain businesses involved in the construction of Hinkley C nuclear power station.
Future businesses will also benefit from the Energy Skills Centre established at Bridgwater College with the aid of EDF Energy, the French energy giant which operates the existing Hinkley B nuclear power station and aims to build its replacement.
The habitat of the low-lying area will also be enhanced and an ecological park will be created.
Sustainable modes of transport will be encouraged and there will space for community recreation and green space open to the public. Paths and footpaths will link the site to the villages of Puriton and Woolavington. And the industrial heritage of the site which helped win Second World War will not be forgotten.
An explanatory meeting will be held with the Puriton Residents Group and parish councils to explain and clarify the details of the plan.