Plans for an £800m power plant which could create more than 1,000 jobs took a step closer thanks to a visit from China.
A delegation from two Chinese power firms visited the Hillhouse site at Thornton to discuss the project which would provide power to the national grid.
The gas-fired power station would form the centrepiece of the enterprise zone at the site, helping to attract other power and chemicals operations and create jobs.
Wyre Power, owned by the land owner NPL Group, believes the project will produce up to 900MW of electricity – enough to power 750,000 homes. Plans for a smaller peak time 20MW power station nearby have already been passed by Wyre Council.
Robert McFarlane, chairman of NPL, invited the vice presidents and senior teams from China Power Engineering Consulting Group Corporation Ltd (CPECC) and China National Electric Engineering Co Ltd (CNEEC) on a tour of Hillhouse and the Fylde Coast.
He said: “I’m delighted we are working towards reaching an agreement with China Power (CPECC) and CNEEC which we all hope will bring significant inward investment to the area. Our visitors were delighted with the partnership approach between NPL and Wyre Council and how this is already transforming the Hillhouse site.”
Coun Peter Murphy, economy portfolio holder at Wyre Council, said: “These are fantastic first steps for Hillhouse International Enterprise Zone and, if all goes to plan, the power station will become a major contributor to Britain’s energy consumption and create many jobs in the area.
“The investment will also attract companies in associated industries to the site and make it a roaring success.”
Xue Danfeng, CPECC vice president, said: “This is our first time in the UK and our first chance to get to know the UK energy market.
“I would like to thank the Government officials and all those who have welcomed us.
“This is a good sign for us because Government support gives us the confidence to invest in the UK.
“Our new leader, President Xi Jinping, has announced a new policy regarding China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project and we need to follow this policy. Therefore we wish to step out from China and invest in the UK power market.
“From a planning and management point of view Hillhouse is a very high standard business park. We notice many companies already and recognise the potential for development.
“Local government support encourages our investment interest for this area.
“CNEEC is another state-owned company in China and we have been partners for many years.
“We have our advantages and co-operation makes us stronger.”
The development will be delivered under the Government’s Development Consent Order process and the Wyre Power team is aiming for a submission in summer 2017 with public consultations taking place in the new year.
Hillhouse is one of four enterprise zones in Lancashire along with Samlesbury, Warton and Blackpool Airport.