Troubled £3.8bn project hits fresh snag following takeover by Australian firm Scale Facilitation in February

The project to build the £3.8bn Britishvolt gigafactory in Northumberland has been thrown into fresh doubt after the offices of its new Australian owner were raided by police on suspicion of tax fraud.

The Australian Federal Police attended the North Geelong office of Scale Facilitation last Friday wearing blue gowns and gloves for the seizure of IT equipment, according to multiple reports.

The search, a joint effort with Australia’s Serious Crime Taskforce, comes after reports in the country that staff at the firm have not been paid in several weeks.

Scale Facilitation told The Times: “We have and will continue to fully co-operate with the Australian Taxation Office and now the AFP. We deny any wrongdoing.”


Britishvolt was rescued by Scale Facilitation in February after running out of cash

Scale Facilitation, which was founded by Australian ex-PwC partner David Collard in 2021, bought the assets of Britishvolt in February through its subsidiary Recharge Industries in a deal said to be worth £8m. 

The troubled project had gone into administration after running out of cash. Main contractor ISG, which paused work on the 95 ha site last August, had said it was “ready, willing and able” to restart the job following the takeover.

The factory had been a flagship project for Boris Johnson’s levelling up policy and the government had committed £100m to Britishvolt if certain construction milestones were hit. 

The facility would produce much-needed batteries for electric cars and is seen as crucial for the long-term sustainability of the UK car industry.

The site’s size, transport links, deep seaport and access to clean energy are understood to make it an ideal location for a battery factory.

Collard’s previous ventures include an aborted cannabis business and providing the US state of New York with PPE during the pandemic.

He told the BBC in February the site in Blyth was “shovel ready” but that it would take six to 12 months before construction work could start again.