CTruk recently signed the lease on a 6400m2 site on the Colne Estuary, a few miles upriver from its current Brightlingsea base. The company plans to use the Fieldgates site in Haven Road, The Hythe, East Colchester to build larger vessels required for offshore wind farm projects further out to sea.
CTruk is pressing on with refurbishment of the existing building on Fieldgates in order to move some production activity over early next year. However, the company also has ambitious plans to build a brand new production facility, offices and training centre on the currently derelict site. As such, it has applied for a grant through Round 6 of Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
Funding support would see CTruk invest to transform from boat builder to ‘Advanced Composite Technology Centre’ creating over 120 new private-sector jobs (including 15 new apprenticeships) over the next few years.
A ‘green light’ for this project would be great news for The Hythe, an area of Colchester marked for regeneration. CTruk’s plans, which would be substantially complete by the end of 2015, would see the long-derelict Fieldgates transformed into a vibrant manufacturing hub, creating a ripple effect of indirect job creation in the local community as the workforce moves in and grows.
It is hoped that the return of a marine based industry to this former port area will act as a stimulus for further new business in the area. It could also provide opportunities for existing companies to supply and support the CTruk development.
“CTruk has driven innovation in offshore wind vessel design since its inception,” said company chairman Peter Mcintosh, “and we intend to continue to apply our unique approach to design and build with the larger accommodation vessels required for the challenging sea conditions further offshore. This requirement is the main driver for our planned expansion, but the technology centre, with its in-house training facility, would also see us well placed to diversify into other commercial marine sectors, set up overseas agreements and also apply our composites expertise to non-marine manufacturing opportunities.”
The company has garnered widespread support for its plans from, among others, Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell, Colchester Borough Council, The Honourable Bernard Jenkin MP, the Haven Gateway Partnership and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The company is also looking to work closely with Colchester Institute and the University of Essex for recruitment, apprenticeships and technological expertise, fitting with the partnership approach to offshore renewables across the East Coast as part of the CORE network (Centres for Offshore Renewable Engineering).
Mr Mcintosh is keen to point out that RGF success would not see the company move out of Brightlingsea: “If we gain grant support to build the new centre, then Brightlingsea will ultimately become our vessel delivery, maintenance and warranty base, with new craft being launched at Fieldgates and moved downriver for sea trials.” With Brightlingsea among other areas of Tendring that were given ‘Assisted Area’ status by Government earlier this year, this would be good news too for the historic shipbuilding town.
Colchester Borough Council has been working closely with CTruk to help realise an exciting future for the site. The Council and CTruk have also worked in partnership to progress RGF funding, aiming to change perceptions and regenerate the former port area, thereby allowing the local community to benefit from resulting employment opportunities.
Councillor Anne Turrell, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration said: “Colchester Borough Council has been actively working with CTruk for some time to help bring forward this significant proposal for the Fieldgates site at the Hythe. We are excited about the progress that has been made so far and the potential for further economic development and employment for the local community.”
Cyril Thomas, Chair of Hythe Forward Community Land Trust said: “We are delighted and encouraged by the news of CTruk’s arrival in the Hythe because it fits well with a number of our core objectives. We welcome the potential work opportunities and investment that CTruk could bring into the Hythe and hope that this will send a positive message to others who may be considering exploring opportunities here that could benefit our community.”
CTruk expects a decision on grant funding support in early 2015.
Press release; Image: CTruk