Plans have been lodged for a new car parts factory in Lochaber – paving the way for hundreds of new jobs.
The proposals for the former Rio Tinto site are accelerating as new owners Liberty House move to make Fort William a “key part” of a network of automotive plants across Britain.
Almost a year of uncertainty over the future of the town’s Alcan smelter was ended in November when it was announced that Liberty House and SIMEC – both members of the GFG Alliance – would buy the Highland assets previously owned by mining giant Rio Tinto.
The £330million deal secured the jobs of 170 workers, and was followed up by an announcement in December that the new owners would create 300 extra jobs by making a further £120million investment in equipment and establishing a car parts factory.
Last week, Liberty House continued to strengthen its position in the market by agreeing a £100million deal with Tata Steel UK to acquire its Speciality Steels business, focussed on products for the the aerospace, automotive and oil and gas industries.
Now the firm is pressing ahead with its factory proposals for the site in Fort William.
Last night, a spokesman said: “The process about getting that facility up and running has started. The outline planning application has gone in and there will be consultations.
“Things are moving ahead on that front. It will not just be wheels, it will be other automotive parts as well.
“Liberty are very keen to build on their footprint in the automotive industry, further strengthen the position, and Fort William is a very important part of that.
“We want to make Fort William a key part of the whole network of automotive plants, and having the smelter there is just ideal.”
Local MSP Kate Forbes hosted drop-in sessions on the plans at the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William on Friday, with more than 50 people attending.
Formal consultations on the factory scheme will be held as part of the planning process.
Liberty House and SIMEC believe its plans could ultimately create and protect 2,000 jobs and boost the Highland economy by £1billion over the next decade.
The deal included the hydroelectric station and aluminium smelter at Fort William, the neighbouring hydro-plant at Kinlochleven and more than 100,000 acres of estate land which hosts the water catchment area, including the foothills of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain.