The company which bought failed battery firm Britishvolt still has not taken possession of the Northumberland site planned for the gigafactory, six weeks after the deal was due to complete.
ITV News Tyne Tees understands Recharge Industries is in discussions with Northumberland County Council over a clause which would allow the council to buy back the land if a battery factory is not built on it.
When the council sold the land to Britishvolt for £4.8 million in 2021 it insisted on the buy-back clause, which required the company to complete work on a gigafactory within 39 months of gaining planning permission.
After the business went bust and was bought by Recharge Industries for £8.5 million in March 2023, the council extended the deadline on the basis that it would take time for work on the site to resume.
Now, however, Recharge Industries is understood to have asked the council to make further changes to the clause so the council would have to buy back the land at its market value, rather than the £4.8m paid by Britishvolt.
The company has refused to settle a £9.7 million pound debt with Katch Fund Solutions, which would allow it to take ownership of the land, until the issue is resolved.
Recharge Industries perviously cited issues surrounding a power supply contract at the site as the cause of delays, which led it to miss a 31 March deadline for settling the debt with Katch.
While that issue has now been settled, the dispute with Northumberland County Council over the buy-back clause is proving to be a further block to progress at the site.
Senior figures at the council are said to be unhappy at the request, which they worry could put taxpayers’ money at risk.
David Collard, owner of Recharge Industries’ parent company Scale Facilitation, recently told the Australian Financial Review that the delays are the result of the fact the council “just have a number of cooks in the kitchen”.
In a statement to ITV News, a Recharge Industries spokesman said the company had "developed a great working relationship with the council in a short space of time and share a joint vision for the huge benefits a gigafactory could bring to Northumberland and the wider North East."
They added that "the council has been good to its word to ‘bend over backwards’ in helping us to deliver a gigafactory project on the site and the thousands of jobs it will secure. Recharge Industries continues to work collaboratively with NCC and Grant Thornton has been appointed by the Council to review the valuation of the buy back and provide recommendations to them."
A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: "The council is proactively working with representatives of the company on a range of financial and legal implications associated with this significant transaction and investment into our county."
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