Wind training college could be the future for Grimsby

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 2 Nov 2016

REPLACING the East Marsh flats with a new purpose-built offshore wind training college would be the "ideal" way to accelerate Grimsby's regeneration, the area's MPs have argued.

Humber MPs were once again lobbying for the creation of a National Wind College in the region, with Labour MPs accusing the Government of going cold on the idea since Theresa May took the helm. A meeting with ministers last March had suggested the Conservatives were ready to stump up the cash if private investment could be secured.

Melanie Onn, MP for Great Grimsby, said the town was "still feeling the effects" of the fishing industry's decline but argued that the offshore wind sector and a specialised college could fill the gap and "redefine what the town has to offer".

"It could give people a proper career with highly skilled work – something most young people thought they would have to go to a big city to find," said Ms Onn, who secured today's debate in Parliament.

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Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers backed the call for it to be established in Grimsby, stating that the college could play a key role in the town's revival.

"I'm prepared to support the bid to have it in Grimsby," said the Tory MP.

"It is in danger of being one of the 'left behind' towns. It is in urgent need of regeneration and that, in part, has to come from the private sector. The private sector will come on board but the Government does have to show willing."

Mr Vickers even went so far as to suggest the exact location where a new-build college could be located.

East Marsh's iconic tower blocks are due for demolition and the soon-to-be-available site would be the perfect spot for the institute, said Mr Vickers.

"The East Marsh area and Freeman Street area, within close proximity to the docks, would be the ideal location if we are to have a new build," he said.

"In terms of regeneration, (a college in either of those locations) would be particularly useful."

The Government established the concept of having 'national colleges', each with a specific focus on developing skills for the future. It approved five last year but the National Wind College missed out after the Department for Education deemed it not "sufficiently mature to proceed".

Robert Halfon, Skills Minister in the Department for Education, said he had been "encouraged" by the work put in by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and industry-body Renewables UK to get offshore wind companies on board with the college idea.

However, he refused to make any guarantees that a wind college would come to the Humber.

The Harlow MP said the plan for the college would have to meet "strict criteria" which had already been met by the other industry colleges.

"I'm very encouraged by the work that's going on and I look forward to seeing further progress being made," said Mr Halfon.

"I've no doubt that this college is vital to the economy."

Ms Onn revealed during her speech that the Government had not yet managed to figure out which department was responsible for the wind college since the Prime Minister scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

"My office received a call from the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS)," she told MPs in Westminster Hall.

"They wanted to know if it was them or the Department for Education that was due to send a minister here today."

The Labour MP vowed to work with Mr Halfon on the proposal and invited him to visit Grimsby in the meantime.

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