The ongoing dispute over the closure of the Isle of White Vestas plant has sparked furious debate on how the Government is supporting green jobs in the UK.
On a visit to Birmingham earlier this week, Ed Miliband, secretary of state for energy and climate change, was greeted by placard-waving campaigners calling for the Government to step in to rescue the plant which is currently the site of a sit-in by workers.
The factory is due to close today with the loss of hundreds of jobs after Vestas decided not to go ahead with a plan to convert the factory to the manufacture of blades suited to the UK onshore wind market.
Vestas said a combination of the recession and the UK planning process, which it claimed remained “an obstacle to the development of a more favourable market for onshore wind power”, were behind the decision not to convert the factory.
Green campaigners have called on the Government to step in and help Vestas in the same way it has got behind the UK car industry.
Chris Crean, campaigner for West Midlands Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s an absolute tragedy to allow England’s only wind turbine manufacturing plant to close. The UK has the best wind resources in the whole of Europe and we should be creating green energy jobs, not shedding them.
“If we are going to build the wind farms urgently needed to cut UK carbon emissions, someone has got to manufacture the components.
“The Government needs to set up a Green Infrastructure Bank to provide affordable finance for renewable energy industries to really take off and deliver the prosperous low-carbon economy ministers and Advantage West Midlands have promised.”
Mr Miliband told people attending an event on the low-carbon economy in the West Midlands that the Government wanted to support Vestas, but ruled out nationalisation as an option.
“Vestas are keeping the factory going to have a small prototype facility in there. We would be having to expropriate it in some form from then.
“I don’t think that’s going to help us get people investing in Britain.
He added: “Government needs to finance the technology. I honestly don’t believe that Government’s best role is to run wind turbine factories.”
Earlier this week the Government gave Vestas £6 million which will go towards Vestas’ offshore research and development division.
The ongoing row took a new turn yesterday after legal action by Vestas to seek a possession order and end the occupation was delayed until next week.
Vestas could face legal action under the Human Rights Act after claims that it was denying the protesters access to food and drink, it was revealed.
The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it was seeking legal advice with a view to prosecuting the Danish firm.