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Coventry is pulling ahead in the race to attract a developer to build a major new electric car battery plant, with plans pre-emptively submitted for approval for a major development at Coventry Airport.
Coventry City Council and airport bosses hope that securing planning permission will make the site more attractive for battery manufacturers seeking a UK base as they seize on the boom in electric cars.
New large-scale battery facilities - known as gigafactories - are seen as key to the future of the UK's automotive sector as petrol and diesel engines are phased out.
It is particularly important for the West Midlands, an automotive heartland where major manufacturers Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda and BMW employ thousands of people.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: “It is mission critical that the West Midlands secures a gigafactory, both for the future of our region’s automotive industry and the huge economic and job benefits it would bring, as well as the future of our planet.
"I am therefore delighted that after years of collaborative work, we have now been able to reach this milestone moment of formally submitting a planning application for our preferred site."
Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport have set up a joint venture to promote and prepare the site.
They have submitted outline proposals to Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council for a 5.7 million square foot factory for battery production and recycling.
It is understood the plans would allow for a factory capacity of up to 60GWh - bigger than Tesla's 50GWh factory in Berlin.
🔋⚡️THE GIGAFACTORY PLANS ARE IN⚡️🔋
Delighted to announce that our plans for a West Midlands Gigafactory have been submitted to Coventry and Warwickshire planners.
We’re pressing on now so we can have planning permission in place for when any commercial negotiation concludes. pic.twitter.com/ISQ87a64rO
— Andy Street (@andy4wm) July 15, 2021
Jaguar Land Rover's Whitley plant is around two miles from the site and securing the company's interest would be a major coup for Coventry.
However, JLR said yesterday it was "exploring all options at this time to find the right position on the new value chain. No decisions have been made.”
The UK had a boost this month when Nissan and its Chinese partner Envision AESC announced £1bn investment into scaling up electric car and battery production in Sunderland.
Start-up Britishvolt has also secured planning permission for a 30GWh plant in Blyth, Northumberland.
Battery weight and trade rules mean car manufacturers will want to be close to battery production, and there are fears they could relocate abroad without battery factories here.
About one-third of UK cars are produced in the West Midlands.