A special event held by Place North West in partnership with the Anglesey Enterprise Zone Board has revealed multi-billion-pound investment opportunities in Anglesey, including in nuclear power, industrial space, science parks, leisure, and more.
More than 100 people attended the event at Manchester’s Principal Hotel, hosted by Place North West alongside the Anglesey Enterprise Zone on Thursday 17 May.
See below for links to slides and gallery
Speakers included Dylan Williams, head of regulation and economic development at the Isle of Anglesey County Council; Sasha Davies, head of strategic development Wales at Horizon Nuclear Power; Sian Hope, director of strategic initiatives at Bangor University; Gerallt Llewelyn Jones of Morlais Energy; Stephen Wade, director of business space at Legat Owen; John Idris Jones of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone; Pryderi ap Rhisiart, managing director of M-SParc; and Tim Howard, deputy director of property for the Welsh Government. The event was chaired by Place North West publisher Paul Unger.
Neil Rowlands, chair of Anglesey Enterprise Zone Board began proceedings by welcoming delegates and outlining the scale of the opportunity in Anglesey and North Wales. Outlining the key developments ahead, he spoke of Anglesey’s ambition to become a “world-renowned centre of excellence for low-carbon energy”, with 10 key sites earmarked as having major potential for growth and investment opportunities.
Dylan Williams, head of economic development and regulation at Isle of Anglesey Council, followed Rowlands with a presentation pointing to key schemes within Anglesey, including energy projects, industrial centres, and a new £100m holiday village planned with Land & Lakes.
- Following the recession, the island was struggling with a loss of high-skilled jobs following the closure of Anglesey Aluminium, and the Energy Island concept was formed as a result
- Historically, the island had struggled with declining GVA, high youth unemployment, emigration of skilled workers, and limited inward investment due to market failure, he said
- But Williams emphasised the bright outlook and the ambition for the island: outward looking, a high-value economy, and improved infrastructure
- “This isn’t a pie in the sky strategy, and there is lots of money being invested to make sure schemes are shovel-ready when we need them to be,” he said
- These opportunities also go “far beyond the island” with knock-on effects to North Wales, Northern Ireland, and the rest of the North West. The third Menai crossing, currently going through the consultation process, could be one of the catalysts for this
Williams then went on to outline the specific opportunities available across the island and other major projects which will help to attract investment:
- At Holyhead Port, a new wharf will be built to attract cruise ships, and this will also link via a jetty to the former Anglesey Aluminium site, earmarked for redevelopment
- The first phase of M-SParc, a science, technology, and business park, has already been developed, but there is outline planning for seven additional buildings, including a £100m thermal and hydraulic test facility
- The £12bn Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant will provide a huge opportunity not just for the nuclear sector but associated infrastructure, and the need for new industrial and logistics space at key sites across the island
- Bluestone’s holiday village with Land & Lakes represents a £105m investment and is due to be operational by 2021. It is also the only development in Wales that is being marketed overseas to foreign investors by the UK Government
Closing the presentation, Williams said the “scale and complexity” of the opportunities ahead presented a challenge, particularly to find the balance between the beauty of the area’s natural environment and its associated attractions, and the major developments that lie ahead.
“it’s not about developing everywhere – right development in the right places at the right time to create a high-quality environment,” he concluded. “We want to attract young people, and we don’t want Anglesey to be the Florida of the UK as a retirement community”.
Sasha Davies, head of strategic development Wales for Horizon Nuclear Power, then took to the stage to update the audience on progress made so far at the £12bn Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant.
- The £12bn capital investment by Horizon, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, is still to be finalised with discussions ongoing.
- A development consent order is expected to be submitted in the coming weeks, knocked back from early March due to additional mitigation for the nuclear plant’s environmental impact
- This development consent order process will take around 22 months, with a final investment decision to follow after. The nuclear plant’s two reactors will take between seven and eight years to build
- During the construction process the demand for workers will peak at 9,000, with that level required for between 18 to 24 months. But the development will provide jobs over its lifespan of more than 60 years, with 850 “high-quality jobs” due to be created alongside 1,000 contracted roles
- The design of the reactors was approved before Christmas. Following the final investment decision, major earthworks are expected to begin in 2020, and the plant will be operational by 2027
- Davies emphasised the scale of the works required on site, with a space the size of the Etihad Stadium being excavated underneath each reactor.
- There are also other associated development opportunities away from the core site: these include a park & ride facility, and a logistics centre at Parc Cybi. There will also be a new marine offloading facility on site and a “significant role” for the port of Holyhead
Davies and Williams then joined a panel discussion alongside Gerallt Llewelyn Jones of Morlais; Prof Sian Hope of Bangor University; and John Idris Jones of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone.
- Hope said that M-SParc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the university, was “open for business” to attract more investment. The park has a further 30 acres earmarked for development, representing a major opportunity for investors
- She added the University was hopeful that Hitachi, owner of Horizon Nuclear Power, would consider M-SParc as a potential development facility for their international markets. She also said there had been interest from companies looking to relocate away from areas such as Birchwood Park in Warrington
- Idris Jones outlined how developments across the Menai Strait could help to support Anglesey’s Energy Island ambitions. Among these is the potential site for the UK’s first small modular reactor, and the Enterprise Zone is working to “de-risk” the project to attract private sector investment
- A former RAF site near Harlech could also potentially be developed for unmanned air flight testing, technology development, and launching satellites
- Williams said that much of the new investment had been met positively by Anglesey’s public but a balance needed to be found in delivery: “A lot of people who have families on the island want the investment, but people who have retired here have done so because it’s quiet. We need to take both of those views in perspective,” he said
- Llewelyn Jones said a key part of selling these developments would be to “move the conversation away from an adversarial atmosphere” regarding conservation, environment, and development. “We need to make the case that low-carbon development will help conservation globally,” he added
- On the workforce required to deliver these major projects, and the associated opportunities, Davies said there would be a great need for offices on the island, while temporary workers’ accommodation will also be built at the Wylfa site. This will feature modular buildings to be home to up to 1,000 workers
- Idris Jones pointed out 90% of the workforce at the previous Wylfa power station was from North West Wales, “proving there is the capability to have highly-skilled local people working in these industries”
Following a short networking break, Stephen Wade of Legat Owen took to the stage with a showcase of prospective investments across the island, with a particular focus on employment floor space.
- Companies in North Wales have already identified a lack of grown-on space as a brake on business investment and development, and the Enterprise Zone’s number one priority will be investing in employment floor space
- Opportunities have arisen around Wylfa and the port of Holyhead, with requirements already coming forward due to Brexit border uncertainties
- Speculative development on the island stalled following the recession but is “starting to gain momentum,” he said, with Anglesey offering “massive opportunities for those brave enough to invest”
- A report by JLL pointed to there being only one unit of more than 25,000 sq ft available on the island, and only four vacant units of up to 5,000 sq ft in size. There are also no vacant units between 10,000 sq ft and 25,000 sq ft
- He added: “Most of these are in the wrong locations, have the wrong specifications, and are outdated”
- “There is a superb opportunity to bridge that gap,” he said. “The time is right to take the plunge and start the development process”
- The key sites are focussed around the A55, many of which are around Llangefni, and some are owned by the Welsh Government making them available for immediate development
- Sites include Parc Cybi near Holyhead, which has already been identified as a logistics hub for Wylfa, with more space available with outline planning permission
- Parc Bryn Cefni will also provide industrial space and is already being linked via a new road to the A55 to improve connectivity
- These developments are eligible for the maximum of European Regional Development Fund intervention rates, with 35% of upfront costs available from financial support. Enterprise Zone occupiers are also eligible for rate relief in the first year
Gerallt Llewelyn Jones then outlined the Morlais project, a potentially “world first” tidal energy zone off the coast of Anglesey.
- Morlais is one of three tidal stream zones in the UK, designated by the Crown Estate in 2014
- The tidal stream off the coast of Anglesey has the potential to generate 240MW of power, and Morlais has a 45-year lease over a 22-square mile area of sea bed
- The other sites are in Scotland and Devon but Llewelyn Jones said the Anglesey site was “the only one undergoing rapid development”. “Our short term objective is to have a plug-and-play tidal stream demonstration zone ready for 2022,” he said
- If successful, it will be the first of its type in the world
- A number of companies have already signed up to support the project including Tidal Stream, Nova Innovation, Instream, Open Hydro, and Verdant Isles, with North American companies showing a particular interest in the scheme
- It has already secured a £4.2m package of funding from the ERDF, and is looking to secure a further £28.9m which will support the first package of works to 2022
- Each turbine will cost around £4m to install, which Llewelyn Jones said could add up to an investment of between £800m and £900m if the full initial capacity of 180MW is taken up
- A deal has already been agreed with Scottish Power while Morlais has accepted an offer from the National Grid for the site
- “There is no reason why Anglesey cannot become a global hub for the development of tidal stream technology into the future,” he concluded
A panel discussion then followed, with Dylan Williams of the Isle of Anglesey council again joining the discussion alongside Pryderi ap Rhisiart, managing director of M-SParc; Legat Owen’s Stephen Wade; Tim Howard, deputy director, head of property at the Welsh Government; and Peter Williams, ICT infrastructure manager at the Welsh Government.
- Howard admitted there had been low levels of public investment in the past 10 years but there had been a “significant change” in recent years. “We have previously been responding to opportunities but it’s widely recognised now within the public sector that we need to have a range of sites and premises available for development,” he said
- “Government should be the developer as last resort, not because we’re not good at it, but it’s much more efficient for us to work with the private sector as the experts in the development process – through both grants and joint ventures,” he added
- When asked about the viability of projects on the island, he said grants could be used to address the viability gap, with tiered levels of support available depending on the occupiers, which could be up to 45% of capital investment
- “If schemes present themselves and are good enough, we’ll work with end-users to make it happen,” he concluded
- Williams of the Welsh Government said money had already been invested in digital infrastructure to support businesses on the island with the first phase of a £225m programme of superfast broadband now coming to a close. More plans are also in the pipeline to improve connectivity, while the Enterprise Zone’s programme has prioritised key business parks for ultrafast full-fibre deployment
- Dylan Williams outlined the infrastructure investment across the island, including a potential £50m link between the A55 and the Wylfa Newydd site. “There are obviously constraints as you move away from those key strategic sites but it’s about centralising activity to protect coastal areas,” he said
- A consultation on the third Menai crossing has already taken place with a preferred route due to be announced this year
- Pryderi ap Rhisiart of M-SParc said the park had been open for two months and has already hit 40% occupancy, ahead of initial projections. There is a mix of tenants ranging from student enterprises to ICT businesses and there had already been companies relocating from elsewhere on the island to the site
- Companies have also taken space and have relocated from both Chester and Manchester owing to the lifestyle available on the island, and six more plots are “ready to go”, he added
A final panel discussion then followed, focussing on the island’s housing and leisure offering, featuring Clair Sedgwick, senior property development executive at the Development Bank of Wales; Nick Telfer, founder of Dylan’s Restaurant; and Neil Rowlands, chair of the Anglesey Enterprise Zone Board.
- Sedgwick said the Bank’s focus would be on SMEs, particularly smaller developers with loans available of up to £5m. The largest scheme currently underway is 150 homes on a phased development
- However, she said the Bank was not looking to “displace existing lenders” as the fund “is not big enough to support everything”, with the Bank also not aiming to support larger national housebuilders on the island
- Finance of up to 65% of the end value is available while rates are based on risk assessments for each project
- She said the criteria for loans would be flexible, and while the focus is on housing the Bank will also look to support commercial and mixed-use schemes
- “The goal is getting houses built, not to get a shareholder return,” she added
- A discussion then followed on the island’s lifestyle offering, with Telfer of Dylan’s Restaurant outlining how his business had grown from one site to now owning a number of restaurants and also manufacturing its own-brand products on the island
- The company now employs 160 people
- He outlined how it had been historically difficult to attract senior staff to the island, but in recent years three members of staff had returned to the island after spending the early part of their careers elsewhere
- Rowlands agreed that the hospitality sector was “upping its game” across Anglesey with a shift away from sites closing during the off season. Uptake from the corporate market has also seen a significant increase
- The leisure offering on the island is also set for a significant boost with a 200-acre holiday village being brought forward by Land & Lakes in partnership with Bluestone. Intended as a year-round tourism site, the outline planning permission for the wider site also includes housing and employment space
- A reserved matters application will be worked up over the next 18 months with the project expected to start on site at the end of 2019. After a two-year development programme, it is expected to open in 2021
Links to the presentations can be found below:
Click any image to launch gallery