AN ESSEX-based engineering firm has received more than £2million to help create jobs in the offshore wind farm sector.

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AJ Woods Engineering in Harwich will use the cash to create a dedicated harbour and operations centre for high-speed offshore support vessels.

It it thought the scheme will create 12 jobs and three apprenticeships, while 300 more indirect employment opportunities could result from the project.

The firm was awarded the £2.28m loan from the ‘Growing Places Fund’ following a successful bid to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) – a business-led body focusing on economic growth in East Sussex, Essex and Kent.

Tony Woods, managing director of AJ Woods, said: “The loan fund is a fantastic opportunity to really make a difference for Harwich, this development will help to bring international companies and manufacturing to the town and provide skilled work for local people to help secure their long- term future and prosperity.

“We could now have 15 to 25 years’ work here in the district with the new offshore wind farms that are going to be built off our coast. A similar venture in Ramsgate has led to a boom in employment for local people there.”

The news has been welcomed by both Essex County and Tendring District councils and the Haven Gateway Partnership, who supported the loan application.

Peter Martin, leader of Essex County Council, said: “Construction of wind turbines off the Essex coast will require many survey vessels working from nearby ports for both construction and maintenance.

“Harwich is the only national sheltered deepwater port so securing such activity into the town is not only vital, but makes commercial sense.

“Creating a significant offshore hub now in Harwich is fundamental for securing long-term opportunity and investment into the area.”

Peter Halliday, leader of Tendring District Council, said the funding is a significant boost for both Harwich and the wider area.

“We supported the bid by AJ Woods both in principle and by providing practical help,” he said.

“We are delighted that it has been successful and that this new investment is being made in one of the key issues of skills and development.

“This Growing Places Funding will help to generate growth and create much-need jobs for the Tendring district.”

Construction work on the new facilities will start as soon as possible in the new year.

The funding for AJ Woods Engineering was part of £8.7m worth of Growing Places funding recently announced by the SELEP board.

A total of six schemes will benefit from the funding which it is thought could lead to 2,365 new jobs being created.

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