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£100 million boost for Lochaber

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A West Highland region is set for a £100 million cash boost with two huge local projects in the pipeline.

More than £50 million could be added to the Lochaber economy if plans to create an alloy wheels factory in Fort William are given the green light.

The same amount is likely to be spent building up to 400 houses in the town as a result of a local housing association’s “biggest project” to date.

Liberty British Aluminium submitted its detailed proposals for the factory at the smelter site in Fort William to Highland Council this week.

The latest figures from the company show that a projected £54.1 million GVA, gross value added, would be delivered for Lochaber every year once the factory is in full production.

And almost 700 local jobs would be created – 400 at the alloy wheels factory and another 279 through the supply chain.

A Liberty British Aluminium spokesman said: “The biggest impact of the new factory would be in Lochaber, but it would also affect the wider economy.

“Because some of the suppliers to the new factory would come from outwith the Lochaber area, it would also affect the Highlands and Scotland as a whole.

“There will also be a one-off figure during the construction period which will bring around £6.3 million to the Highland economy.”

The jobs boost would not just affect Lochaber as the figures would also increase in the Highlands too.

Local MSP Kate Forbes said: “It’s great to see the initial proposal for the alloy wheels factory start to take shape. In taking this proposal forward, we are one step closer to possibly employing just short of 700 people.

“The impact on the Highland economy every year will also be phenomenal.”

Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, added: “I’m delighted the plans have been submitted as a lot of work has gone into the proposals.

“It’s a logical extension of the smelter and this will not only safeguard jobs but create much more not only in this area but in other parts of the Highlands as well.”

Liberty British Aluminium’s plans for the new factory have 130 different documents attached, covering everything at the site from geology, hydrology and hydrogeology study areas, peat depth investigation and environmental impact assessment reports, to the ecology study area, existing woodland cover, a landscape masterplan and transport assessment.

The company’s planning statement says the proposed alloy wheel manufacturing facility is the first priority phase in the development of additional industrial processes at Fort William, involving an investment of more than £130 million.

The new factory would be built adjacent to the existing smelter outside the town and would initially be capable of manufacturing two million alloy wheels with scope for expansion to deliver three million in the future.

A second phase could potentially be a rolling mill plant, which creates sheets or bars out of liquid steel.

The statement continues: “The investment in the site will be a significant catalyst in terms of realising economic development in the area. The alloy wheel manufacturing facility will safeguard the existing smelter and will require the development of new homes.

“In order to meet this job supply, Liberty British Aluminium is committed to drawing in new people to the area which will assist in balancing population growth and diversifying the area’s age profile.

“Taking all these aspects together, the proposed development will support sustainable communities.”

The factory could soon be producing a quarter of all car wheels in the UK, with the metals giant aiming to produce up to two million alloy wheels every year at its proposed plant.

Liberty House and sister company SIMEC are part of the global giant, GFG Alliance.

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