Coal-fired Power Stations — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 27th April 2016.

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Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Conservative, Cannock Chase 2:30 pm, 27th April 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. He is absolutely right: we are losing facilities, not only at the Rugeley B site but at Shugborough, a few miles up the road. We need to look at leisure provision across the area. One thing that we need to include in any kind of site development at Rugeley B is leisure facilities.

Since the announcement on Rugeley B, I have visited the site and met the owners and unions several times to discuss practical ways in which we can support all those affected. I will hold a jobs fair in Rugeley in June, and I encourage any members of the workforce who might be affected by the potential closure and who are seeking new employment to attend this event. A couple of weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government accompanied me on a visit to the site in order to understand the situation we face, to have a tour of the site, and to understand its potential future uses and the issues that we face in realising them. I take this opportunity to thank him for his time and support.

Whether the plant closes this summer, next year, or even in a few years, it is essential that we speed up plans for Rugeley’s future, and in doing so develop and implement a strategy for the site. The same is true of other coal-fired power station sites that might face closure. We need to mitigate the loss of jobs, and create new employment opportunities for all those affected and for the wider economy.

The Rugeley B power station site is of national strategic importance, as it is unique in size, location and connectivity. It is a 374-acre brownfield site that could accommodate a range of different developments, including housing, commercial and industrial units, and a gas turbine; it could help to deliver much-needed homes, jobs and electricity. I will talk about each of these in a bit more detail shortly.

A taskforce that includes the district councils, the county council and the two local enterprise partnerships has been set up. It has held its first meeting to discuss ways of supporting the workforce during the consultation period, and to establish strategic plans for the future use of the site if the plant closes. The site is in the heart of England, and it is incredibly well connected by road and rail links. It is close to many of the major motorways and trunk roads, including the M6, the M6 toll road, the M42, the A50, the A38—I could go on. It also sits alongside the west coast main line and has its own siding. The fact that there is an Amazon fulfilment centre on the land opposite Rugeley B demonstrates how well served the location is by various transport links.

Then there is the site’s connectivity. Naturally, as a power station is situated there, the site has national grid connectivity, which means there is a strong case for using the existing infrastructure and building a gas power station, which would help to create jobs for the highly skilled workforce at Rugeley B. I also understand that fibre-optic broadband runs down the railway and along nearby canals. This connectivity crossover opens up new enterprise opportunities relating to innovation and technology.