Driven by Mersey Maritime and Peel L&P, the £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub on the banks of the Mersey could create up to 4,000 jobs . Tony McDonough reports
A decision by councillors in Wirral have provided a critical breakthrough for plans for a £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub (MKH) on the banks of the Mersey that will create 4,000 jobs.
First announced at London Shipping Week six years ago, the MKH project will provide a national base for marine engineering research and development as well as skills training and business accelerator space. It will create 4,000 jobs in its first five years.
The 60,000 sq ft facility would be built around the Grade II-listed 19th century hydraulic tower building, a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, close to the Birkenhead waterfront in Peel Land & Property’s Wirral Waters development.
Now Wirral’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee has agreed to recommend the Wirral Waters Investment Fund be approved for investment into the Maritime Knowledge Hub.
It will also invest in another key Wirral Waters scheme, Egerton Village, which will include retail to support the emerging residential developments nearby plus a new square with an events programme as well as managed workspace and studios and potentially a restaurant.
The council is moving forward with agreeing 250-year lease on the hydraulic tower and investing in its redevelopment. The MKH will be a world class centre of excellence for maritime business growth and sector development, bringing together the region’s key maritime assets in business, research, education, and training.
The project, which is within the Wirral Waters Enterprise Zone, will be designed to create an environment for maritime businesses and for university provision to locate and for a range of skills to come together from these organisations to help drive new products intended to significantly advance the growth of the sector
These will focus on decarbonisation and digitalisation which are the prominent technology challenges for the sector and closely linked to the council’s own net carbon targets. The scheme has an outline design that has been prepared by two award-winning, internationally acclaimed architectural firms, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects in Denmark, and Ellis Williams Architects in Liverpool.
The architects are committed to breathing new life back into the Grade II listed Hydraulic Tower building, which was bombed during World War II with an emphasis on designing in sustainability.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of industry body Mersey Maritime, which has been one of the leaders on the project, said: “Mersey Maritime and its members have backed the Maritime Knowledge Hub project from the outset.
“We know that delivery of it is absolutely integral to the future of both our industry and the regeneration of this important site at Wirral Waters. Securing the funding agreement is a significant point as we drive the project forward which very much feels like it is gathering the momentum and further strategic backing that it requires.
“Innovation, new technology and decarbonisation are big themes in the maritime industry at the moment and they have the potential to deliver highly skilled jobs, economic growth and prosperity for our area in the years ahead.”
Richard Mawdsley, director of development at Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters, added: “Securing this funding agreement is a significant milestone in the development of the £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub at Wirral Waters.
“This transformational project will protect and celebrate the area’s maritime heritage, restore the iconic Grade two-listed Hydraulic Tower and Engine House and promote decarbonisation within the maritime industry.
“The MKH will be a national base for marine engineering research and development and survival training as well as providing business accelerator space for the maritime sector. It presents a fantastic opportunity for job creation and economic growth across the Liverpool City Region and beyond.”
The agreement by the committee to recommend the council’s Policy and Resources Committee back the project moves the scheme closer to the next stage which is to secure detailed planning permission and Listed Building consent before work can start on the site.