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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
David Laister

Humber's low carbon push remains on government's radar according to senior civil servant

A senior official from the Department of Business and Trade has told how the Humber low carbon agenda remains on the radar in Whitehall, despite a recent knock-back.

Industry stakeholders were left disappointed by March’s omission from the government’s forerunner plans for carbon capture and storage. The huge proposal linking Drax, the Keadby power cluster, British Steel and Saltend to depleted oil and gas caverns beneath the North Sea, while sending hydrogen in the opposite direction did not make the initial cut.

Marian Sudbury OBE, director of UK regions, was a guest of Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce for the Expo lunch, with immediate past president Mike Whitehead pressing the issue, with the organisation having joined council leaders in writing and asking for an urgent rethink.

Read more: New £180m green hydrogen production proposal for the Humber

And referencing both the Gigastack and Saltend plans, she told how the area is “being looked at” by government.

“I do know it is on the radar, I can reassure you of that.” she told the Humber Business Week event.

It came after she highlighted the green global opportunities for the Humber built on the work done over the past 15 years on the Energy Estuary.

Ms Sudbury said: “You have in recent years established yourselves as a big success story in the low carbon industry, it is something we have been very keen to support you with and keen to support you with more.

Marian Sudbury OBE, director of UK regions at the Department for Business and Trade, with, from left, Lord Mayor of Hull, Cllr Kalvin Neal, Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ian Kelly and Hull City Council leader, Cllr Mike Ross. (Reach Plc)

“There have been recent delegations from The Philippines, Colombia, USA and Brazil, coming over because they are interested in what you do, in hearing from you and in buying from you.

“The Humber has the largest offshore wind farm in the world, that generates a lot of value for the region and jobs for the region. It is also helping companies expand abroad.

“Boston Energy in Beverley is operational in the USA, based on that expertise. And offshore wind is not the only low carbon game in town. We are seeing inroads into the hydrogen market with Gigastack and Alkborough, and CCS, a key part of UK strategy going forward. “Government has identified the Humber as a key area for that.”

Mr Whitehead had outlined the huge vision for the Humber, with more than £15 billion of private investment primed - yet no public money of significance yet landed for it.

He told Ms Sudbury that if the government is serious about Net Zero targets it has to start in the Humber, the UK’s most carbon intensive cluster. He underlined how Teesside has one quarter of the emissions, and Saltend alone produces more than Merseyside.

A second CCS plan focused on the Immingham refining and power cluster, with imports through the port, has been flagged by the government as a leading track two contender.

Ian Kelly, chief executive of Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have a great story to tell and opportunities to go further and faster are there.”

He had reflected on the success of enterprise zone status worked on 12 years ago in the early stages of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, alongside government, with Siemens and Orsted particular successes on both banks.

Council leader's state of the city address

Hull City Council leader Mike Ross told how he remained committed to getting a devolution deal, while underlining the importance of the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Joined by East Riding Council’s new leader Anne Handley for the first part of the event, he said: “We are very much up for getting together to get the best deal for Hull and East Riding.”

Reflecting on Humber Business Week, which saw the invite extended to speak at the Chamber Expo, Cllr Ross said: “I always enjoy Business Week. It is a tremendous chance to show off what businesses in this region have to offer and what the business community does here.

“You can really feel the buzz, really get a sense of what is going on. The challenge is to sell that to everyone else. We know what this region has to offer, our job is to make sure the rest of the country and the rest of the world does too.

“There is a tremendous range of different businesses and a collaborative approach in this region, not the dog eat dog approach as seen elsewhere. The business community wants to work together to get the best for this region.”

Describing his administration as a ‘listening council’ he highlighted surveys on transport and community strategy, and various funding initiatives from road improvements to crime reduction and high street regeneration.”

Cllr Mike Ross. (Neil Holmes)

On devolution he said his tenure has been dogged by the “revolving door” of government ministers making it difficult to get a foot in the door, but was optimistic with Dehenna Davison now having the brief. “She is known to this region having been at university here, and cut her teeth in local politics,” he said. “We even stood against each other in the 2015 general election!”

Current MP Dame Diana Johnson held and romped home, with Cllr Ross just over 2,000 votes behind third place Ms Davison, as UKIP came second.

Looking ahead, Cllr Ross, said: “Recognising what Hull is is really important. Hull has always been a place that has done things its own way. Hull Trains, KCom, a tremendous history of people getting up and doing it themselves; the tremendous spirit of entrepreneurial people getting on with the job, and that spirit will get us through the hard times ahead. We have to see people work together to get Hull through.”

Explaining how it was not for him to tell business what to do, but to help enable it to thrive, Cllr Ross added: “We have tremendous advantages of connectivity, access and location and we need to capitalise on all of these. We know the type of city we want it to be, and need it to be, and we need to rise to the challenges.”

Read next:
Let's hear it for the Humber - Business Week launches with call for unity behind the place
Hull's The Edge Hub opens with 'whole eco-system' of skills and innovation on offer
Humber's low carbon plans exhibited on international stage
£4m timber processing investment at Arbor Forest Products
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