Northumberland data centre a step closer as council approves plans for former Britishvolt site

There are plans to built an AI data centre on the former Britishvolt site in Northumberland. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Plans to build a data storage centre on the former Britishvolt site in Northumberland have taken a step closer after they were granted council approval.

Northumberland's County Council cabinet unanimously agreed to modify a buy-back clause on the land at Cambois near Blyth, allowing US investment firm Blackstone to develop a series of AI data centres.

The American company, along with its data centre subsidiary QTS, will invest up to £10 billion in the area as part of the plans as well as putting £110 million into the council’s coffers, which will be used to fund business investments across the county.

The council has previously said the project will create more than 1,600 direct jobs, including 1,200 long-term construction jobs, as well as more than 2,700 indirect jobs.

However, the plans have also been met with some scepticism due to concerns the site is not being utilised to its full potential and will not provide the number of jobs initially promised by the Britishvolt gigafactory.

Britishvolt collapsed last year. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Conservative council leader Glen Sanderson stated that the project represented one of the largest investments ever seen in the country.

"I think the key part of this is we are dealing with a huge multinational company that's got a lot of experience in building AI campuses and data centres," he told ITV News Tyne Tees after the meeting. "We know that is the future, whether we like it or not.

"So we felt we were best placed, not just for all the natural assets that we have in the county and all know about, but also because we have this hugely thriving go ahead part of the county in Blyth and the peninsula that this land would be particularly suited.

"At the beginning, I didn't think we would be able to compete against all the other places that were bidding but we have been chosen and that is magnificent."

While Mr Sanderson admitted the centres would not give the number of jobs that would be provided by a car battery plant, it would provide longer-term security and help attract other companies specialising in modern technology.

He also said there was sufficient land remaining for a gigafactory to be built and for other investors who want to set up in the area.

The leader of Northumberland County Council Glen Sanderson says there is still space to develop the site. Credit: PA

"What I am not going to do is wait for it to happen," he added. "I am going to grab any opportunity that is right for the country and right for us and that's what we've done.

"We will continue to be commercially minded and will work hard to get further investment."

However, the Labour MP for Wansbeck Ian Lavery expressed his disappointment at the plans, suggesting they would not supply the job security that the region needs.

"There is a huge reduction in jobs for local people in the area so in that respect I am extremely disappointed that is the case," Ian Lavery said. "It is a huge reduction in what we were looking forward to.

"This should be based firmly on employment. What we want is labour intensive industries where people in the area can get a decent, secure job and I am not sure this data centre will.

"But we will wait and see how things develop, what the details are and how that progresses."

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