Council leader welcomes announcement of UK's new £5bn cyber force HQ to be sited in the Ribble Valley

Plans to site the UK's new £5bn digital warfare centre in Samlesbury have been welcomed with open arms by leader of the Ribble Valley Borough Council, Coun. Stephen Atkinson.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 1:37 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 1:40 pm

The Government is to build a new digital warfare centre in the Ribble Valley, capable of launching “offensive” cyber attacks against hostile powers such as Russia.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who is MP for Preston North and Wyre, announced the £5bn project on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

The new National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in Samlesbury, near to the BAE Systems site and in the heart of the so-called “red wall” of traditional Labour seats which the Tories took in the 2019 general election.

GCHQ brought prosperity to Cheltenham

It is expected to employ thousands of cyber experts and analysts by 2030.

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday (Sunday) that Boris Johnson is expected to cite it in his keynote speech to the conference as an example of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda. Mr Wallace compared the impact of the new centre to the location of GCHQ in Cheltenham in the 1950s.

“Cheltenham was a small country town and look what it has done. That’s what we mean by levelling up,” he told the Telegraph.

Mr Wallace said the creation of the new centre – which will be run jointly by GCHQ – would put Britain “at the front” of the countries which are able to mount offensive cyber attacks.

Leader of RVBC, Coun. Stephen Atkinson has welcomed the announcement

“We will be one of the very, very few nations in the world with that scale,” he said.

The Defence Secretary said cyber had become “a new domain in battle” and that it was essential the Britain was able to operate there against potential adversaries.

“Some foreign states are waging cyber warfare on us every single day. And we have a right under international law and among ourselves to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves from cyber warfare if that warfare is dangerous, corrupting, or damaging,” he said.

“Offensive cyber can do a range of things, including going after paedophiles and their networks, going after terrorism and their networks, and obviously going after hostile states, should we choose to do so where they use capabilities.

The new digital warfare centre at Samlesbury is expected to employ thousands of cyber experts. “It’s a new front, a new domain in battle. And that’s what we’ve got to be able to do here.”

The news has been welcomed by Coun. Stephen Atkinson, who is also director of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. He said: "This is fantastic news for the Ribble Valley. Not only is this going to create thousands of job opportunities for local people, but it's the support industries, such as leisure and hospitality businesses in the rural borough that will benefit massively from this project. It's going to create a whole new industry of which the Ribble Valley can hopefully be part of."