By Clifford Webb
British Leyland’s projected new integrated car plant, costing between £100m and £150m, will almost certainly be built in one of three traditional steel-making centres, South Wales, Shotton, in Flintshire, or on Teesside. Motor industry and steel sources said last night that, under European Coal and Steel Community pricing regulations, which came into effect on April 30, motor companies now had to pay substantial freight costs for steel deliveries from railhead basing points near steel producing centres.
This introduces a new cost factor. Before April 30 the cost of steel was the same wherever it was delivered. The capacity of the new car plant will be at least 250,000 cars. a year, the generally accepted minimum for the economical operation of a fully integrated complex. A labour force of between 8,000 and 12,000 is thought to be necessary to produce 250,000 cars a year. dependent on the extent to which the newv plant will be automated. To find this number of suitable male workers will not be easy.
In this respect Shotton would seem to have a strong case. The British Steel Corporation plans to run down its steelworks there during the next few years, reducing the present 12,000 labour force by 6,500. Until the recent trouble over these proposals Shotton has never had a major strike. The Shotton works adjoins large tracts of land owned by BSC and this could he made available as the site of the car plant. It is only an hour away from port facilities at Liverpool.
An equally strong case is being made out for a site within the South Wales triangle of Port Talbot. Ebbw Vale and Cardiff. But there are also strong advantages at Teesside where BSC is to expand a steelmaking complex to equal Japanese plants in size and concentration.
Ronald Kershaw writes: Mr Christopher Chatawav, Minister for Industrial Development, said at Teesside yesterday that the Government intends pressing British Leyland to establish its new car plant in one of the development areas.