US private equity titan Blackstone has secured land in Cambois, Northumberland

1 min read

In a significant acquisition move, US private equity titan Blackstone has secured land in Cambois, Northumberland, once earmarked for Britain’s pioneering electric vehicle (EV) battery gigafactory. This development, while driving expectations of job creation and economic growth in the region, casts a shadow over the nation’s ambitious net-zero aspirations.

Initially designated for Britishvolt’s ambitious lithium-ion battery manufacturing venture, backed by mining heavyweight Glencore, the property’s fate took a dramatic turn with Britishvolt’s plunge into administration in January 2023. Despite hopeful prospects of securing substantial funding, including a potential £100 million injection from the Automotive Transformation Fund, the company faltered in meeting crucial benchmarks, including the commencement of the Cambois factory.

Blackstone’s acquisition, shrouded in financial opacity, signals a divergent course for the land, with plans emerging for the development of a data center. The move, lauded by Northumberland County Council head councillor Glen Sanderson for its potential to invigorate local employment and economic vitality, underscores shifting priorities amid evolving industrial landscapes.

Amidst Brexit mandates dictating stringent localization requirements for electric vehicle components and the impending ban on new petrol and diesel car sales, Britain’s net-zero trajectory faces formidable hurdles. The void left by Britishvolt’s erstwhile ambitions now amplifies concerns over dwindling prospects for domestic gigafactory projects, relegating Envision, a Chinese battery manufacturer, as the solitary player in the arena.

Geopolitical tremors, exacerbated by simmering tensions between China and the West, underscore the imperative for bolstering domestic EV battery production. The specter of overreliance on Chinese-backed lithium battery makers looms large, prompting calls for robust incentives and supportive measures to galvanize indigenous manufacturing capabilities.

Darren Jones, chair of the Business, Enterprise, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee, underscores the pivotal role of EV production in shaping the nation’s economic future, urging concerted efforts to fortify supply chains and foster a thriving domestic manufacturing ecosystem. As Britain navigates the intricate nexus of energy transition imperatives and geopolitical exigencies, the imperative for decisive action to safeguard industrial resilience and economic sovereignty looms ever larger on the horizon.