New era as demolition starts on old Hyundai plant
Published: 20 Apr 2011 14:1926 comments
There have been false dawns in the past and unfulfilled promises over microchip jobs but now the Newcastle-based Shepherd brothers, Freddy and Bruce, are determined the site's potential will finally be realised as a hub for the renewables sector.
The decommisioning work will be completed by the end of this year and a masterplan for the site will be drawn up by August.
Shepherd Offshore have already created a renewables hub on Tyneside and want to do the same in West Fife on the 150-acre site, eventually creating up to 10,000 jobs.
With Shepherd Offshore on board and an anchor tenant to follow, the Dunfermline plant will be perfectly placed to tap into Scottish Government NRIP (National Renewables Investment Programme) cash which will help pave the way for investment and jobs.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was guest of honour and looked on with the Shepherd brothers as the bulldozers moved in.
Freddy Shepherd, former chairman of Newcastle United, told the Press he had decided within 24 hours of visiting the Halbeath site for the first time to buy it.
That decisiveness and eagerness to move things on is a key characteristic of the Shepherd brothers.
They were surprised to hear the site's history but were delighted to find a base so well located for transport links, adjacent to the M90, with a new road bridge being constructed over the Forth and the port of Rosyth nearby.
The Shepherds have been regular visitors to Dunfermline over recent months. Freddy joked, "The Dobbies cafe has become our board room.
"They know us well over there."
While the massive factory space is coming down the three-storey office block is remaining in place.
The Shepherds had hoped that the factory could be saved from demolition.
"People had said nothing can be done with it but you think maybe you can find a use.
"In the end we accepted it had to come down," said Freddy.
"This is a great site in Dunfermline and I've fallen in love with it.
"Everyone else has failed with their plans so I was determined we would go ahead with this and bring the factory down.
"We had a lot of help from the council in Newcastle and we'll hopefully get the same from Fife Council."
He said that when the equipment in the factory was auctioned recently 90 per cent of registrations came from the Far East.
Mr Shepherd said there would not be any "metal bashing" on the Halbeath site but rather it would be used for work such as manufacturing gearboxes.
The former Prime Minister was accompanied by Newcastle MP Nick Brown, Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty and Labour's candidate for Dunfermline in the forthcoming Socttish elections, Alex Rowley.
Gordon Brown said, "This is a great day for Fife.
"We have a committed company in the Shepherd Offshore Group. The goal must be to create 10,000 jobs and this can be the next stage of Fife's economic development.
"This is yet another endorsement of Fife as a key centre for renewable and high technology industry."
Mr Docherty said, "I'm delighted the demolition work has finally begun and I can't believe it's coming down at last."
Tony Martin, Fife Council chair of environment, enterprise and transportation, said he was delighted to see progress towards jobs.
He had been there back at the very start when Tory minister Michael (now Lord) Forsyth performed the sod-cutting ceremony in the 1990s.
"That was a long time ago and I remember him making some joke about chips back then," said Mr Martin.
Mr Rowley, Labour group leader on Fife Council, said, "What we need to see is that we will again be a manufacturing sector economy and we will create part of that here in Dunfermline and we have people who are absolutely committed to do that."