Manufacturers in the Midlands have hailed the news Jaguar Land Rover is to double the size of its new engine plant near Wolverhampton as the region’s “best automotive news for decades”.

JLR is going to create 700 extra jobs at its new i54 Business Park plant taking the total number to 1,400 – by investing £500 million to double capacity.

The Gaydon-based firm made the decision – a year before the factory is set to open – because of soaring global demand for its cars.

The existing factory plans are for a plant the size of three football pitches – more than 828,000 sq ft – but if plans are passed the proposed i54 development will double in size.

It is expected to be ready to start engine production in 2014 with the first engines coming off the production line in 2015.

Industry experts say the new engine plant is the biggest new automotive factory opened in the West Midlands for decades, and will offer a major boost to the crucial automotive sector.

Richard Halstead, Midland director for manufacturers’ body the EEF, said the move would have a knock on effect to create thousands of jobs in the supply chain.

He said: “In terms of breaking new turf this has to be the biggest news for decades.

"There has been the expansion of Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull, which has created lots of jobs, and the work around the airport, but in terms of a new plant there hasn’t been anything like this for a long time.”

Rachel Eade, who leads the Manufacturing Advisory Service’s automotive service, added: “This is really fantastic news. It is quite a statement – doubling investment and doubling jobs.”

JLR chief executive Dr Ralf Speth said: “Jaguar Land Rover’s new Engine Manufacturing Centre in the UK is a clear demonstration of our business strategy guiding our investment plans.”

“Not only does it bring our engine supply back to our production doorstep, but it gives us significant new resource as we continue to innovate with new products and markets.”

The plans have grown on the back of soaring sales. In 2012, Jaguar Land Rover sold 357,773 vehicles, up 30 per cent.

Union leaders also welcomed the news.
 
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "We're delighted that this state-of-the-art facility is going to be expanded. This is a fantastic boost for manufacturing. JLR is going to build its own engines and it is going to manufacture them here in Britain.
 
"This is a massive vote of confidence in the skills of the UK workforce.

"JLR's investment will  generate over 1,000 quality jobs in the West Midlands and is a much-needed shot in the arm for Britain's struggling manufacturing sector.
 
"The skills, expertise and dedication of the British workforce have put Jaguar Land Rover back into serious profit and keeps them on the map as a top luxury car maker.

"The workers deserve recognition for their contributions and we will continue to press for them to be rewarded with job security in the future."