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Wind farm jobs prove to be so much hot air

Matt Britton of London Array wind farm
Matt Britton of London Array wind farm

by business editor Trevor Sturgess

Europe’s biggest offshore wind farm will not be the expected jobs bonanza for Kent, it has been confirmed.

While developers say there will be some job creation, hopes have been dashed that Ramsgate, for example, could become the “Aberdeen of Kent”.

London Array, a £3bn project that will eventually plant nearly 300 turbines in the Thames Estuary 12 miles off the Thanet coast, was originally expected to tranform the economy of East Kent, with Ramsgate flagged up as a centre of turbine assembly.

But Tony Pringle, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Thanet, says that dream has faded with the decision to outsource manufacturing and assembly to overseas companies, leaving just a few maintenance and support jobs for Ramsgate.

He told Kent Business: “The original perception of wind turbines was that assembly work would be done on land. However, what these people are doing is having all the sub-assembly, every single bit of it, done in Europe and none of it in the UK.

“We should be creating jobs in the UK for UK plc, not for Europe. It’s generated no real jobs for Thanet, for the rest of Kent or for the South East.

"We were promised hundreds and hundreds of jobs but we’ve had the jobs taken from under our noses.”

But Matt Britton, London Array’s commercial and operations director, says that while the project may not create hundreds of jobs, it will need 70 technicians based in Ramsgate, plus support workers such as caterers and crews for service vessels.

There will also be construction jobs based at the Port of Ramsgate. He added: “I think we are going to see the use of quite a number of local contractors during the construction phase."

Mr Britton said London Array was not the only offshore project. Others such as the Vattenfall Thanet Offshore 100-turbine wind farm, were also creating jobs. There would also be many opportunities for local firms.

Meanwhile, the first power from London Array should come ashore in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. London Array will be plugged into the National Grid at Graveney, near Faversham, in October 2011, and the 110 turbines in the £2bn first phase in place by the end of that year.

The project should eventually generate enough energy to power three-quarters of a million homes across Kent and Greater London.

For the full story, see Kent Business, out with the latest Kent Messenger, Medway Messenger, Kentish Express and Kentish Gazette.

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