End of Kent's Vestas dream

Vestas Factory Plan
Vestas factory plan Photo: Vestas

This was the vision for a corner of Peel Ports' dockyard in Sheerness. A seventy hectare site turned into a factory producing enormous wind-turbines. It was unveiled, with some fanfair, at a press conference in May last year. Now the plan is no more.

"Obviously very, very disappointing news." says the local MP, Gordon Henderson. "Not altogether surprising news because this was only ever an option for the land that was due to run out in a year, there was only a year's option and we always knew that at this time final decision would be made but it's disappointing."

Two thousand jobs could have been created. With continuing uncertainty about Thamesteel, just hundreds of yards from the port, today's decision is bad news for the area.

People on Sheerness High Street had this to say:

"This island needs some sort of jobs, with the steel mill and all that, we certainly need some new jobs here."

"Things seem to start on this island and nothing actually materialises does it; there've been so many things in the past and it never happens."

"That's not good for the island is it? You know there was a lot of employment opportunities there"

With two of three pre-conditions for Vestas to build here dependent on the Government, are the Conservatives to blame? Tory Leader of Swale Borough Council, Andrew Bowles, disagrees:-

"I wouldn't say that we've failed, I would say that timespans have beaten us . I still think we would still be going ahead with these negotiations had the economic climate not gone wrong for Vestas."

And Vestas has had turbulent time of late, with management changes and job losses. The company says it's still very interested in on-and-offshore turbines but it's concentrating on its research base on the Isle of Wight. But it's still waiting on definite orders for the technology before deciding when to build a production line.

Peel Ports meanwhile says it still wants to get big green energy businesses to set up shop at the docks and they claim the location makes it ideal.

The story may not be over though. Vestas only ever had an option to lease the land, and one of the conditions they had for building the site was that they had firm orders for the giant wind turbines. Without those orders, why would they spend money reserving the land? But if the orders do start flooding in, it is possible that Vestas still could come back to this site and the jobs could be created - but it could also be a long time 'til that happens.

VIDEO: David Johns talked to Gordon Henderson MP, Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Cons; and Councillor Andrew Bowles, Leader, Swale Council, Cons.