20 February, 2008 – Wigan Council puts seal of approval on ‘Chinagateway’ development proposals
England’s North-west is set to become a major European centre for trade with China after ambitious plans for a £125million textile manufacturing hub were unveiled this week.
Wigan Council’s ruling cabinet will tomorrow (Thursday 21st February) formally agree to sell a 55 acre site at Westwood Park, just a mile south of the town centre, for a development which it is says will “put the town on the international business map”.
Dubbed ‘Chinagateway’, the one million square foot development will be similar to one in Dubai. It will create the largest clothing and textile industry centre in Europe – a ‘textile city’ that will be home to a large number of Chinese companies trading with the UK and Europe.
It is expected to create at least 1,000 jobs plus a further 3,000 in spin-off industries. An international quality hotel for exhibition delegates and buyers visiting Wigan will also be built, along with a direct link from the site to the A49 and M6.
Thursday’s deal follows more than two years of discussions between Wigan Council, Chinamex (the official trading platform of the Chinese government) and Commercial Group Properties PLC, one of the fastest growing property companies in the UK.
It is supported by the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textiles, which has a membership of over 6,300 Chinese textile companies through its links with Chinamex.
Wigan Council Leader Peter Smith says: “The Prime Minister says he wants the UK to be the prime location in Europe for inward Chinese investment. In Wigan we are about to make that ambition a reality.
“The benefits to Wigan and the North West region in terms of jobs are enormous, but this is a scheme that has international significance.
“The strength and dynamism of the world’s fastest growing economy is being transplanted into the heart of North West England, and Wigan is ideally positioned to reap the benefit for the wider region.
“Our borough was once at the heart of the region’s textile industry and I am delighted that we will be once again.”
Lord Smith stressed that the council wants to see as many jobs as possible going to local residents, adding: “We are currently looking to increase training and skills provision to ensure Wigan residents have the necessary skills to apply for these jobs.”
China is recognised as a key market for the North-west, both in terms of trade and inward investment. The region exported over £360 million worth of goods to China in 2006 and this accounted for 11% of the UK’s total exports to China. In 06/07, the Northwest secured 17 investments from Chinese companies – more than any other region in the UK.
The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) has been working with Wigan Council on the project. Mark Hughes, Executive Director for Enterprise & Skills for the NWDA says: “This project is at a very early stage at the moment, but the initial plans for a textile hub of this size in the North-west are very interesting and could lead to the creation of a significant number of jobs and investment into Wigan.
“This is an exciting proposal that could further strengthen both our trade and inward investment links to this important market and we look forward to supporting the Council and taking the project forward.”
Another major benefit for Wigan will be to unlock the funds for the extension of the A49 from the M6 to Westwood Park, easing congestion throughout the town. This link road is seen as an essential part of the plans.
The business plan for the development talks of creating a “vibrant mix of manufacturing, marketing, warehouse, research and development, hotel and office facilities” – all built to a high quality design.
It says the project will re-establish Wigan as a major centre of excellence for industry, particularly textiles and a showcase for quality textile and apparel production to trade buyers from across Europe.
It reads: “Wigan is ideally located within the North West region. It can offer good links to the main cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Preston, the national motorway network, a direct rail link to London and proximity to Manchester Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.”
Westwood Business Park is just a mile from Wigan town centre and less than two miles from the M6. The former site of a large power station, its infrastructure has been substantially improved with funding from Europe and the government.
Source: Wigan Council press release