120 jobs on the way as classic vehicle centre given go-ahead

Some 120 jobs are on the way in Derby after the green light was given to build a £3m heritage vehicle centre on a site in Osmaston.

Owners of Great Northern Classics said contractors are expected to move onto the site within days after “tremendous support” from the Derby City Council helped them to get the necessary permission and funding over the line.

The project will see the former Light Alloy Factory in Osmaston Road transformed into a centre where owners of classic vehicles including cars, motorbikes and lorries can bring their vehicles to be repaired and restored.

Similar to the concept of BBC TV’s Repair Shop, they will be able to access upholsterers, electricians, mechanics and bodywork specialists, all of whom will be given workshop space all under the same roof within the 85,000 sq ft building.

The centre is also designed to preserve and propagate crucial skills for the classic vehicle industry by acting as a training academy for a new generation of young artisans and skilled workers, who will be offered apprenticeships to enable them to learn their trade direct from the experts themselves.

And it will also have extra facilities so that visitors will be able to meet and look at the work taking place and attend host conferences and meetings, while the site will offer vehicle storage as well.

The idea for Great Northern Classics belongs to Shaun Matthews, a classic vehicle fanatic and the former MD of Denby-based Deb Group’s International Dispensing, R&D and IP Divisions, who wanted to establish an academy where the skills of classic vehicle restorers could be passed on.

He approached current Derbyshire High Sheriff Mike Copestake and Derby architect Derek Latham, who are experts in renovating old buildings, asking for help to find somewhere suitable to house it.

A number of possible sites were considered until Rolls-Royce agreed to sell the company the former Light Alloy Centre, which is currently home to the aerospace firm’s heritage collection of aero-engines.

Plans were drawn up and, earlier this year, the scheme was approved by Derby City Council, which has also made another contribution to the scheme by lending the company £1.25m from its Derby Enterprise Growth Fund.

Matthews said: “I am so happy to see this project getting off the ground after so long and we’re hugely indebted to Derby City Council for their tremendous support.

“Classic vehicle ownership is booming, but it’s served by a cottage industry of talented engineers who are working away in small workshops all over the country and, frankly, aren’t getting any younger.

“We want to change that, by bringing them together under one roof while giving young people who want to become motor engineers a place to learn their skills from these experts, all of which will create jobs and attract visitors to the city.”

Copestake, who is also a director of the project, said: “We are extremely grateful to the city council for sharing our vision and enabling us to start work on what promises to be a landmark development for this area of Derby.

“There is so much engineering history in Osmaston and we’re only round the corner from where Roll-Royce used to build the Silver Ghost motorcar at the start of last century.

“It’s wonderful to be able to rekindle that automotive spirit by ensuring that owners can preserve their classic vehicles and a new generation of engineers can learn the skills they need for their careers in engineering.”

Chris Poulter, leader of Derby City Council said: “We want to ensure that as much of our spending as possible remains within the city, supporting Derby people – and Derby City Council is pleased to support this exciting opportunity. Not only will it secure the future of a historic cultural asset, but it also gives back to the people of Derby.

“It will create a space that attracts visitors, boosting the city economy and where young people can learn valuable skills totally befitting of Derby’s engineering heritage.”

The classic vehicle industry is estimated to be worth around £7bn to the UK economy and employs 35,000 people across the country, according to the Federation of British Heritage Vehicle Clubs.

Pictured above: Councillor Nadine Peatfield, Mike Copestake; Chris Poulter, leader of Derby City Council; Shaun Matthews, founder of Great Northern Classics; Mick Barker, deputy leader of Derby City Council, and Stuart Bennett, owner of project contractors Grace Construction

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