Agratas Bridgwater battery facility will 'superc'harge UK’s automotive sector and South West economy

Artist impression of the gigafactory planned for Somerset which would be using Cornish lithium to power Britain

Residents and potential employees have heard more about a revolution that promises to transform the UK’s automotive sector and bring thousands of jobs to the region. A significant number of neighbouring residents anticipating the construction of Somerset’s battery facility, actively participated in a community event at Bridgwater & Taunton College on Tuesday, April 30.

Agratas, the global battery business building the facility, invited residents to the event as part of a series of exhibitions it hosts as part of its community-first approach. At the exhibition, Agratas, the global battery business behind the facility, shared details about their investment in a cutting-edge battery facility.

This facility is set to contribute nearly half of the projected battery manufacturing capacity required for the UK automotive sector by 2030. The exhibition provided a comprehensive overview of the facility's design, the advanced technology powering the electric car batteries to be produced, and the diverse range of jobs that will be available.

READ MORE: Faces of teenage killers who killed musician at 16th birthday party in Bath

READ MORE: Relocation of veterinary practice among new Somerset planning applications

Agratas colleagues, including CEO, Tom Flack, answered questions and heard feedback from residents on issues including construction, local community benefit, landscaping and design, travel plans, sustainability and jobs and skills. The new facility will create up to 4,000 new jobs in diverse fields, including operations, engineering, and management, at what is set to be the biggest battery factory in the country.

Bridgwater & Taunton College students were invited to an exclusive preview of the exhibition. As well as getting a behind-the-scenes tour, students heard from Agratas CEO, Tom Flack, about the multi-billion-pound investment, advice he would give young people wanting to get into advanced manufacturing jobs, and training that will be on offer to help young people start a career at Agratas.

Tom Flack, CEO, Agratas, said: “Since announcing that Somerset would become home to our new battery facility, our top priority has been to get into the community and meet some of our new neighbours. My team and I were delighted to see so many residents at our event at Bridgwater & Taunton College. I’m incredibly grateful to the college for helping us put on such an excellent event.

“It’s important to us that Agratas provides local jobs for local people, which is why it was especially rewarding to hear from the college’s students and provide them with an overview of the training and career opportunities available for young people.

“There are factories in Europe just next door that struggle with this, and they've had a really hard time doing what we're trying to do here because they didn't do this right. We're selfishly interested in connecting with the community, with people that could create careers with us.”

The Bridgwater & Taunton College event was the third in a five-part series of events Agratas is hosting, with two other events having previously taken place on Saturday, April 27 in Bitham Walk Hall, Woolavington, and Puriton Sports Centre.

He added, “When you do construction, there's noise, there's dust, and it's a big project. Part of our commitment to the community is trying to be a good neighbour and be honest about it, to listen to people who are affected and work through them.

“It's a long construction cycle, nothing like the community has experienced. We intend to deliver on our 2026 deadline. The economic impact is immediate with the kind of jobs that come with it, as they are large-scale jobs and very good, well-paid roles.

“We'll creep in around 2025, so we start right now, developing curricular. Then we creep into means that you'll start seeing people take on rolls in the hundreds, and then you'll see it really pick up towards the end of 2025 when we start getting ready for full-fledged operations.

“Each line has so much sensitivity and settings. It takes a while to set up and get it just right. Then, you replicate and replicate. We call it scaling. We scale not only the processes inside those buildings but also the people. It'll be a climb up, which is what this is all about. Once we build this machine together, as far as education and as far as training goes, that will run for about five years of just continually developing and developing.”

He also encouraged women to enter the workplace, saying, “We really want to promote the idea of women coming into the company. It's just not attractive in many developed countries where women want to be in plants, and it's a shame.

“The only way to change it is to enter the education framework early and talk about STEM or the idea of being into the sciences. These are great places to work if you are interested in a career as a woman, and we just need to convince people of this.”

He spoke of the plant's global potential and how transformative the site will be to the automotive industry, saying, “The auto industry has a big challenge, which is to get out of combustion engines and into this space. We're transforming that. We’re one of the great brands here in the country, but also globally.”

“We want to ensure that we can bring national pride to this, not just community pride. We also want to ensure that the communities closest to it feel something even more special.

“That comes through a lot of the engagement and the quality of what we create. All that pride comes in and begins tonight with the people. If you nail that, it gives us everything that we need to start working. We know how to build a building, we know how to set the lines, we have to find a way to make this group feel something special about it. “We hope they come from all over the region, we hope they come from all over the country, and they will. It's not about this location; it's about everybody. When we work with the central government, we get the same effect; a lot of pride.”

Bridgwater and Taunton College principal Andy Berry welcomed the opportunity for students to see the opportunities.

“It is their first opportunity to engage directly with Agratas and understand the exciting opportunities this project will bring to them and the region,” he said. “As we further cement our strategic partnership, I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of the opportunities in delivering economic growth, innovation, and prosperity to our region.

“Somerset has a strong track record of delivering these great projects. We are ready to support the team at Agratas.”

Beyond Bridgwater he explained that there was a strong network of education providers across the South West, and as chair of the Association of Colleges he was in a prime position to work with others.

“I know every principal across the South West region,” he said. “In a direction, we might or not normally work to the north. I'm with the senior team at the City of Bristol College, and I know the team at Weston College. We've also signed agreements with the university sector.

“This is not a Bridgwater-centric point. This will have a gravitational impact that will start in the immediate community and then spread out across the southwest region and the UK economy.”

Councillor Liz Leyshon, deputy leader of Somerset Council, said: "It was great to see so many local people come out to find out more about Agratas' plans for the local area. This exciting development will be a very welcome boost to the local economy. We are looking forward to working with Agratas, local colleges and schools so that together, we can ensure that young people can develop the skills they need to take advantage of this huge opportunity on their doorstep”.

Mo Retford, a resident from Woolavington, used to be a lab assistant in the old Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) in her first job at age 16. She commented: “I appreciate the fact that the site will be used again. We had a self-sufficient village there in the past, and it will be great to see a new community there benefitting the whole area.”

Mo was also able to see how the site will pay homage to the ROF's history, with an original building kept intact and information for visitors inside.

Mr Flack also spoke of the current development, saying construction was underway.

“Essentially, to put a factory of this size on that site, you have to lay down a very extensive foundation,” he said, saying that some buildings would be up to 700m long.

“We call these things pilings; essentially long concrete pillars into the ground and we put thousands of them underneath the building so it’s sitting on that strong foundation. That work has all been planned out and begun.

“Once that phase is done, you get into the general contracting phase, where you start to see what a layperson would describe as a construction site. It's all getting to that phase over the next several months.”