Wigan council reveals Chinese textile city plans

Rachael Tinniswood

A £125m textile complex backed by the Chinese Government is to be created at a former power station site at Westwood Park near Wigan.

The town's council has unveiled its plans for the 1m sq ft scheme, which will be developed by a JV between Commercial Group Properties and Chinamex, China's official foreign trading body, and will tomorrow officially agree the sale of the site for £10m.

Officials hope the project, known as the Chinagateway, will create the largest clothing and textile industry in Europe and will attract a large number of Chinese companies trading within the continent.

Plans for the development include a hotel for exhibition delegates and buyers visiting the town, as well as manufacturing, marketing, warehouse, research and development, hotel and office facilities. A planning application will be submitted later this year.

Wigan council leader Lord Smith said: "Last month the Prime Minister said he wanted the UK to be the prime location in Europe for inward investment. In Wigan we are about to make that ambition a reality.

"The strength and dynamism of the world's fastest growing economy is being transplanted into the heart of North West England, and Wigan is ideally positioned to reap the benefit for the wider region."

China is recognised as a key market for the North-west, both in terms of trade and inward investment. The region exported over £360m worth of goods to China in 2006 and this accounted for 11% of the UK's total exports to China. In 06/07, the Northwest secured 17 investments from Chinese companies – more than any other region in the UK.

The North West Development Agency has been working with Wigan Council on the project. Mark Hughes, executive director for enterprise & skills for the NWDA said: "This project is at a very early stage at the moment, but the initial plans for a textile hub of this size in the North West are very interesting and could lead to the creation of a significant number of jobs and investment into Wigan.

"This is an exciting proposal that could further strengthen both our trade and inward investment links to this important market and we look forward to supporting the council and taking the project forward."

Another major benefit for Wigan will be to unlock the funds for the extension of the A49 from the M6 to Westwood Park, easing congestion throughout the town. This link road is seen as an essential part of the plans.

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