The new owners of the former Lynemouth aluminium smelter are to begin work on a masterplan for the site, saying it is ripe for development.
The 320-acre site in Northumberland has been bought for an undisclosed sum by Harworth Estates, the former real estate arm of UK Coal, who have indicated its potential for commercial development.
The deal represents the firm’s second major non-coalfield acquisition and adds to its large portfolio of UK regeneration sites across the north of England and the Midlands.
Land sold includes the site of the former Rio Tinto aluminium smelter, and is separate to the site of the Lynemouth power station, which was sold to a subsidiary of RWE npower, and surrounding farmland, which was sold to the Crown Estate.
Richard Anderson, environment manager at former owners Rio Tinto, said: “Our marketing of the site attracted a great deal of interest from a wide range of sectors.
“After lengthy consideration and due diligence, we decided the offer from Harworth Estates gave the best prospect of securing sustainable long-term employment on the site given their exceptional track record of successfully regenerating redundant industrial sites.”
Since the sale, Rio Tinto has completed decommissioning of the Lynemouth site, which was once the base of Northumberland’s biggest private sector employer.
The process involved the removal of smelting infrastructure, the demolition of some outbuildings, including the carbon plant, and some remedial work on the land.
The main potroom building remains standing, although the machinery has been removed and the building cleaned so that it can be adapted for any future use, or potentially demolished. Following cleaning the site’s operating permit has been returned to industry regulator, the Environment Agency.
Owen Michaelson, chief executive of Harworth Group plc, said: “The Lynemouth site fits very well with the rest of our property portfolio in the North East, given we own a number of sites planned for regeneration at Butterwell, Ellington, Widdrington and a site adjacent to the smelter site.
“As we take the site forward to the occupier market we will be emphasising its many benefits including access via rail to the Port of Blyth.
“Our specialist team has significant experience developing large-scale brownfield sites and transforming them into places of lasting economic and social regeneration. We look forward to working closely with the local community and other partners with an interest in the prosperity of Northumberland in doing the same at Lynemouth.”
A spokesman for Harworth Estates said consultation with residents, the local council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and local businesses would start later this year, in order to develop a masterplan.
The spokesman, who described Harworth Estates as a “responsible regeneration company”, said engagement is crucial to the success of any future development.
Sir Alan Beith, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Berwick upon Tweed, added: “This is excellent news for Lynemouth and the surrounding area. I hope the development of the site, and the creation of new jobs, can begin quickly.”
Councillor Allan Hepple, Policy Board Member for Planning, Housing and Regeneration at Northumberland County Council, said, “This is a good deal for the county and fits in with our strategic plans for economic growth. It raises the prospect of significant investment and job creation at Lynemouth.
“With its size, location and surrounding infrastructure the site has enormous potential for development and the county council will work closely with Harworth Estates to attract businesses that will create good quality, long-term jobs.”
Last November Harworth bought the 162-acre site of the former Skelton Grange power station near Leeds from RWE Generation. The company already manages more than 200 sites across the North and Midlands, totalling more than 27,000 acres.