Council planners in Wirral give the go-ahead for the £25m Maritime Knowledge Hub in Wirral Waters, a project first unveiled by Mersey Maritime seven years ago. Tony McDonough reports
Wirral planners have given the green light to the £25m Maritime Knowledge Hub (MKH) in Wirral Waters.
A 60,000 sq ft hub of innovation, engineering, R&D, entrepreneurship and training, the idea for the MKH was first unveiled by industry cluster body Mersey Maritime at London Shipping Week seven years ago.
On Tuesday Mersey Maritime chief executive, Chris Shirling-Rooke, said: “Right from its inception, Mersey Maritime has been a passionate and determined supporter of the new MKH project.
“We are delighted that a significant milestone in its evolution, confirmation of planning approval, has now been secured as this will be a decisive step on the journey to turn this concept into tangible bricks and mortar reality.”
Located close to the Birkenhead waterfront, the MKH will be built around the Grade II-listed 19th century hydraulic tower building. Designed by John Bernard Hartley, the tower is a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
It will be an industrial and maritime facility, supporting the region’s £5bn maritime ecosystem where the focus will be on areas such as research, innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation and decarbonisation.
Richard Mawdsley, Peel L&P’s director of development for Wirral Waters, announced the go-ahead for the scheme at the MIPIM International property expo in Cannes.
For several years Mersey Maritime has championed the MKH, which will sit in the new Liverpool City Region Freeport zone, promoting it to senior members of Government.
Chris Shirling-Rooke added: “We are incredibly excited to be part of this vision, not least because we know only too well the deeply significant role that maritime plays in the region’s economy.
“Worth some £5bn to the Liverpool city region already, we want to unlock further the potential to drive jobs, skills and growth which sits at the core of the ambition of the MKH.”
The MKH will also include business accelerator space and conference facilities for both the marine sector and the local business community. It has been designed by Ellis Williams Architects.
They have worked to maximise the sustainability of the project whilst retaining as much of the building’s original character as possible, complementing the tower with the creation of a new four-storey extension. It is hoped that the project will be on site in 2023.
Speaking in France, Richard Mawdsley said: “The MKH is a really special project for so many reasons.
“It will continue the Wirral’s proud maritime heritage; create new jobs and economic growth for the Liverpool city region. And it will also, through research and innovation, help the Wirral to be at the forefront of the creation of a decarbonised global maritime industry that is fit for a more sustainable and green future.
“Securing planning permission is a major step forward towards the delivery of the project and will galvanise progress with occupiers and our funding partners.”
Maritime minister Baroness Vere was invited to view the MKH site in January by Mersey Maritime. She was also briefed on the sector’s Regional Cluster Development Programme, pioneered by Mersey Maritime.
On Tuesday she said: “Decarbonisation is challenging, but it also presents huge opportunities for UK maritime.
“That’s why we’ve allocated more than £206m for research and projects across the country, targeting everything from the earliest phases of research right through to the commercial level.”