9 August 2015
The aluminium smelting works in Holyhead started production in 1971. Owned by Anglesey Aluminium Metal Ltd (AAM), a joint venture between Rio Tinto Group and Kaiser Aluminium, it produced 142,000 tonnes of aluminium per year and employed around 500 people. It was the UK’s biggest single consumer of electricity and was powered mainly from Wylfa nuclear power station on the north Anglesey coast. However, when the power contract ended in 2009 no viable alternative was found and the plant was closed down. A smaller-scale re-melting operation with a staff of 100 was then started, but this too ceased in 2013 in the face of dwindling demand and increasing costs.
The plant was then mothballed and AAM divided its land into two distinct parcels and agreed deals for two separate developments. One of these involves the conversion of the site of the existing plant into a Biomass Energy Centre and Eco Park, and the other involves the construction of a holiday village in Penrhos Coastal Park.
In October 2014 a deal was agreed for the sale of the plant to Chester-based Lateral Eco Parks. In March 2015 the Department of Energy and Climate Change granted planning permission for a £600 million biomass facility. The plans include a 299 MW wood-pellet burner, producing enough energy to power 300,000 homes, and whose products are to be re-used in the eco park. Carbon dioxide is to be used in the hydroponic cultivation of crops such as lettuce and tomato, while waste heat and water is to be used by a new fish farm. In May 2015 Orthios Group (formerly Lateral Power) put their plans for the development of the site, which could be operational by 2017, on display in a public exhibition.
Despite strong local opposition, Land and Lakes was granted initial planning permission in November 2013 for a £100 million holiday village in woodland and open land formerly managed by AAM. The planned development is in three areas: 500 lodges in Penrhos Coastal Park; a further 315 cabins at Cae Glas on the other side of the A55 road as part of the holiday village; and over 300 houses on agricultural land in the Kingsland area in the south of Holyhead. The Kingsland houses are intended for initial use as accommodation for the construction workforce for Wylfa Newydd, the planned replacement nuclear power station at Wylfa, and are later destined for conversion to holiday chalets and housing. An agreement was reached in June 2015 over the amount of community cash to be paid by the developers to ease the additional burden that would be placed on local services in the area. However, the planning application was deferred in July 2015 over uncertainties in the conditions attached to the development. There was no guarantee that the scale of the project would be reduced if the construction of the new nuclear power station does not go ahead. There were also concerns over the costs of decontaminating the Cae Glas land adjacent to the aluminium works.