Govan yard could be lost in race to secure a 'frigate factory' on Clyde

BAE Systems has formally begun consulting on plans for a major new "frigate factory" at Scotstoun that could signal the end of shipbuilding in Govan.

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Yards in Scotstoun, pictured, and Govan face an anxious wait
Yards in Scotstoun, pictured, and Govan face an anxious wait

The defence giant insists it has made no final decision on the future of its two Clyde yards - just two months after announcing more than 1700 job losses, around 800 in Scotland, as it winds down from its current aircraft carrier orders.

It has been widely tipped that the company will focus its energies on building a new generation of frigates at a single yard in Scotstoun, shutting the historic Fairfields site at Govan.

However, there is also understood to be a less favoured plan to build the new vessels, Type 26s or Global Combat Ships, across two sites, keeping both Govan and Scotstoun open.

BAE Systems has now formally notified Glasgow City Council of planning proposals for both options, according to documents seen by The Evening Times.

It had to do so because the sheer scale of the works envisaged is so big that it has a duty to enter into a statutory pre-planning application consultation with stakeholders, such as community groups.

Consultants Arch Henderson, acting for BAE Systems Naval Ships, in a letter dated last month told Glasgow City Council it would submit a planning application for "new buildings, new site access and associated works" at the Scotstoun yard in South Street.

It added: "The proposed development is one of a number of options that BAE are currently evaluating with the regard to their shipbuilding and support operations."

The consultants stressed that the plan was a "major development" and BAE was therefore committed to a "full and frank community consultation".

An almost identically worded letter was written to the council for "new buildings and associated works" at Govan.

Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, has already signalled that he would accept the closure of Govan if such a move had union support.

BAE is understood to have briefed senior politicians in Scotland about its proposals.

Despite the iconic status of Fairfields, most industry insiders believe focusing investment at a single new state-of-the-art yard would be a signal of long-term confidence in Clyde shipbuilding.

Such a move could potentially free up space at Govan for another use.

The Evening Times understands that BAE will need the same number of workers whether it operates from one or two yards.

BAE began to explain its decision making process to workers last month.

At the time a company spokeswoman said: "We are undertaking initial exploratory work to assess potential options to invest in these manufacturing facilities.

"No decisions have been made and the discussions are part of our ongoing consultation with our employees and trade unions.

"Our aim is to create a world-class warship design, build and integration capability, ensuring that we deliver value for money to the Ministry of Defence and a modern and safe workplace for staff."

BAE is currently negotiating with the UK Government to build a new generation of Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy.

It is expected to put proposals for this work, including exactly where they will be built, to the MoD next year.

The Govan yard, even if a decision was made to close it, would stay open until at least 2017 as it completes work on two aircraft carriers and an order for offshore patrol vessels.

BAE Systems announced the closure of its third surface ship yard, in Portsmouth, late last year.

The English yard, which is a decade old, cost BAE a £100million charge in 2010 after cost overruns and delays on the delivery of offshore patrol vessels for the Caribbean island of Trinidad, and was widely ­expected to be axed.

However, Govan, whose iconic cranes are to be dismantled, was also tipped for closure at the time of the announcement.

david.leask@eveningtimes.co.uk

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