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Map Environmental with ex-England rugby stars Austin Healey and Will Greenwood on board sign £400m solar panel deal with Chinese firm ZNShine Solar

By Chris Price

A renewable energy business which features ex-England rugby legends Austin Healey and Will Greenwood as directors has signed a £400m deal with a Chinese company.

Maidstone-based Map Environmental has entered into a joint venture with ZNShine Solar ahead of a meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and David Cameron today.

Companies in both countries have signed £14bn of trade and investment deals this week as both governments try to build on record commerce levels between the two nations, up 8% overall last year.

Solar panels

Map Environmental is set to purchase, develop and construct £400m of UK solar panels with ZNShine, built over three years in conjunction with some of the UK’s largest engineering, procurement and construction contractors.

The agreement involves ongoing maintenance for up to another 20 years.

The project will create up to 50 new UK jobs in design, administration and operation roles with another 500 new UK jobs in construction and maintenance.

Former rugby star Austin Healey is a long-time friend of Map Environmental chief executive Paul Wheeler.

World cup winners Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood, Lewis Moody, Kyran Bracken and Austin Healey were among the last from England's men's team to taste success in 2003

Mr Healey works three to four days a week for the company in a strategic role.

He persuaded Will Greenwood to join as a non-executive director.

The deal was struck thanks to long-running good relations between Mr Wheeler and the influential Wang family in China, who have backed previous projects run by the Map Group.

The company was founded as Map Contracts in East Farleigh in 2003.

Mr Wheeler said: “When you work so hard and get this sort of deal in place you feel pleased for yourself but also for the team who have worked so hard to get us here.

“I started this business from nothing but I have always had that belief. I’m really excited by this deal.”

UK exports to China have more than doubled since 2009 and are growing faster than those of French and German companies.

Last year UK exports to China averaged more than £1bn a month.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “There has been more investment into the UK from China in the last 18 months than in the previous 30 years.

“Our country’s brand is recognised around the world and the Chinese have an appetite for high quality British goods and services.”

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