New Forgemasters grant bid

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SHEFFIELD Forgemasters are awaiting a verdict on a fresh bid for Government finance – but not for a press for the nuclear power industry, which prompted an outcry last year when an £80m loan was withdrawn.

A decision is due this autumn on applications for grants from the Regional Growth Fund, which supports projects that encourage private sector investment and create jobs.

The Brightside Lane engineering specialists are declining to specify at present how much they are asking for – and how the money would be used.

But there will be no rerun of the controversy over a £80m loan for a press that would have made Forgemasters one of only two companies capable of making giant forgings for nuclear power stations

The money was approved by the Labour Government, only for the decision to be overturned by the Coalition Government, leading to a political storm with Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg at the centre.

Peter Birtles, group director at Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd said: “We can confirm that an application to the Regional Growth Fund has been submitted by SFIL.

“The submission underpins business development opportunities for the company but it does not relate to any previous funding applications for a 15,000-tonne press.”

A £1.4bn fund has been created by the Government up to 2014 to encourage economic growth and sustainable employment. It aims particularly to help those areas and communities currently dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable, private sector-led growth and prosperity.

A total of 492 bids was received by the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under the second round with a combined total value of £3.3 bn, competing for a share of £950m.

They were being assessed over the summer by the Independent Advisory Board, chaired by Lord Heseltine. The board will then make recommendations to a board of ministers led by Nick Clegg.

Although competition is strong, local civic leaders will hope that the Government gives Forgemasters a favourable response, especially after all the turmoil caused by last year’s decision.

It remains to be seen whether Forgemasters pursue their nuclear ambitions through a new press at a later stage.

The company are attending an international conference of leaders of the forging industry in Pittsburgh, America, outlining theie technical developments, including computer simulation, material developments and world-leading forging techniques.

They are sharing the scope of their research in industries such as civil nuclear power production and defence.

The International Forgemasters’ Meeting takes place every three years and Sheffield Forgemasters have led the gathering for eight years with Peter Birtles acting as chairman.