Multi-billion pound plans to create a series of data centres at the former Britishvolt site in Northumberland have been proposed.

American firm Blackstone and its data centre subsidiary QTS have reached an agreement to take over the site at Cambois. The company aims to develop either a "hyperscale datacentre campus" or an "AI Data Centre Campus" on the site near Blyth.

The site had previously been earmarked for the creation of a “gigafactory” building electric vehicle batteries, but has been beset by numerous complications. If successful, the Blackstone scheme could mark an investment of £10 billion into the region.

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The county council say the new plans will create thousands of jobs both on-site and in the supply chain. The proposals are set to be considered by the council’s cabinet next week.

They would also see the council receive up to £110 million in exchange for the amending of a buy-back option currently on the land. It has previously been reported the council had a buy-back clause for the land, allowing it to repurchase the site for the same amount it was sold for, if the planned development was not completed within 39 months of obtaining planning permission.

A data centre is a specialised facility equipped with computer servers, storage systems, networking infrastructure and security measures to securely store, manage and process digital data. These centres support various online services, applications and digital platforms.

Like the gigafactory plans, data centres need many of the factors that the site brings: a large, flat and cleared site; good sea, rail and road links; and access to large amounts of renewable energy.

Blackstone has also reached an agreement with former Britishvolt lender Katch Fund Solutions. The company are the current owners of the land, which is on the site of the former coal yards at Blyth Power Station.

Council leader Glen Sanderson said the money would be used for job creation in the county, with a particular focus on the land around the new Northumberland Line railway project. A report set to be presented to the cabinet next week states that this money would be “ring-fenced” in order to “maximise opportunities across the county”.

Cllr Sanderson said: “Driving growth and jobs is a key priority for this council. Next week, Cabinet will consider this really unique opportunity for Northumberland which offers a huge boost to the regeneration and renaissance of the local area.

“The project would represent a significant inward investment of up to £10 billion, putting our county at the forefront of developments in the digital economy, and delivering over 1,600 direct jobs, including 1,200 long-term construction jobs, and over 2,700 indirect jobs over the course of the development.

“If agreed, the council would receive up to £110m in exchange for amending the buy-back option on the NEP3 land site, and use the proceeds to establish a fund which will drive investment, including in the economic corridor along our fantastic new Northumberland Line. Through the council’s investment company, Advance, we have worked tirelessly to make this site such an attractive place for global companies to do business. 

“We look forward to considering this opportunity at Cabinet next week. Northumberland is indeed a land of great opportunities and this potentially significant investment opportunity underlines this.”

The report also highlights that the site has been identified as an “Investment Zone” by both the Government and the incoming North East Combined Authority. This would confer a number of tax incentives on users of the site, as well as bringing funding to support innovation and skills.

The initial Britishvolt scheme was forecast to create 3,000 jobs, as well as 5,000 in the supply chain. However, the project hit difficulties when the company went into administration.
Attempts by Australian firm Recharge Industries to purchase the site and restart work never came to fruition.