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Gloucestershire Business News

EXCLUSIVE: Will McMurtry EV factory bid go to Wales?

If planners can't agree on the location for an innovative electric car factory in Gloucestershire, the entire project could up sticks to South Wales.

A local government insider has told that a failure to reach approval for a scheme for an EV assembly plant and showroom near Wotton-under-Edge will nudge the applicant to a Plan B which would see the entire project shift over the bridge.

As Punchline exclusively reported last week  McMurtry Automotive, who have designed and built a car that costs nearly £1m a pop and may soon lay claim to being the world's fastest EV.

AH Heritage have submitted plans on behalf of the auto tech disruptor for a green-field project immediately adjacent to Renishaw PLC's New Mills headquarters, the near-5,000 sq m facility being earmarked for on pasture land owned by Sir David McMurtry.

Sir David owns the auto firm and is the founder and majority shareholder in Renishaw. Some 50 jobs are believed to hinge upon approval of the new facility.

Catherine Braun, SDC leader, told Punchline last week that the "target decision date" for the Wotton-under-Edge project will be September 8th.

She added: "the Stroud District Local Plan has been reviewed, and is currently going through an 'Examination in Public' with the Planning Inspectorate."

But a source has told Punchline that McMurtry Automotive has made it clear to planners that failure to move ahead on the bid will leave no option other than to move the project to industrial space owned by Renishaw at its Miskin operation, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, west of Cardiff.

The site, which covers 195 acres and provides 650 jobs for Renishaw staff, announced expansion plans last summer when Renishaw PLC revealed it was moving ahead to build 37,000 sq m of additional low-carbon buildings, including two new production halls and an employee welfare facility. Completion on this work is scheduled for December 2024.

Local parish councillors in adjacent Charfield have meanwhile asked Stroud to refuse the bid, stating that it "would destroy another swathe of the countryside between Charfield, Kingswood and Wotton under Edge, leading to the eventual physical joining of the three locations".

Some residents have also objected: "The proposed location," wrote one, "would rely on the use of the private motor car by the work force and by customers. Even electric vehicles cause traffic jams. The nature of Lithium battery production and the associated unquenchable fire risks have not been investigated nor mitigated against."

Beyond potential planning wrangles, development of the first market-ready cars continues apace. The Speírling Pure (Irish for 'storm') single-seater track car employs an innovative underbody fan system to create downforce sufficient to enable record handling and speeds, the likely market price of the car now set to be £984,000 (including local taxes in addition to the base price of £850,000).

Assembly at the proposed Gloucestershire site would incorporate a showroom area for visiting clients. The car's customer base is believed to be largely buyers from Middle East and USA.

A development model of the Speírling has already smashed records at the infamous Goodwood Hill Climb, but the Pure retail version is now being tipped for even greater performance, delivering 1,000bhp and a 15% increment in efficiency through weight savings.

Autocar magazine writes: "Combined with a more efficient e-axle that gives the rear wheels 1000bhp, plus a kerb weight of less than 1000kg, this means the car can do 0-62mph in 1.5sec and continue to a top speed of 190mph."

Rapid charging will enable the car to return to track action within 20 minutes and though it is just 3.45m in length, the cockpit can accommodate drivers up to 23 stone and 6ft 7inches tall.

Thomas Yates, McMurtry Automotive managing director, said: "The Spéirling Pure will herald a new era on the track."

McMurtry Automotive was approached for comment.

Punchline says: Today's threat of a potential loss for Gloucestershire echoes a sorry tale of lost investment which some may remember in Bath, when Sir James Dyson failed to achieve a plan for an innovative design school after the government failed to stump up its part of an investment plan. In ensuing years, we have seen the disruptor brand shift local skills, profit and people to Malaysia.

From Sir David's belief in Gloucestershire and its local workforce we've witnessed the incredible success of Renishaw, which now is Gloucestershire's biggest private company, employing more than 2,500 staff.

Here's to the hope that planners are pragmatic and we don't repeat Bath's mistake.

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