Regeneration of Wirral engineering landmark to help drive Northern economy

A disused Grade II Victorian building on the banks of the Mersey is set to receive a new lease of life as an education and collaboration campus for advanced manufacturing and engineering skills.

The historic Hydraulic Tower building, which once used to drive the lock gates and bridges in the Birkenhead Docks, is the centrepiece of a new project that aims to provide the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to support the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

The private and public sector consortium behind the initiative, including Mersey Maritime, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and the Peel Group, revealed a vision for the site last night (Wednesday, 9 September) at an event held as part of London Shipping Week. The project, which is expected to cost around £20m and take three years to complete, aims to benefit the local economy with skills development and opportunities for knowledge-sharing.

The tower, which is modelled on Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, is located in the heart of the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone, part of which is focused on advanced manufacturing and engineering, automotive, energy, maritime and business services.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, acting chief executive of Mersey Maritime said:

“This is a real partnership between local private and public sector organisations, working towards a common cause. We have a unique chance to create a lasting legacy by developing knowledge, increasing productivity and driving our economy forward.

“As well as the direct benefits to employers, we see the knowledge hub as having huge potential to act as a catalyst for other developments, both in creating an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and in helping to regenerate this part of the community.”

Gary Hodgson, chief operating officer of Peel Ports, part of the Peel Group, said:

“We’re building a new gateway to the UK economy in the form of our Liverpool2 deep-water container terminal. We have the Manchester Ship Canal, two international airports on our doorstep and a recent £13 billion government investment in rail and road networks. It all adds up to a world-class supply chain and enviable connectivity. So what better place to create this exciting development to help provide the innovators and entrepreneurs who can lead our growing economy.

“It also brings together the area’s rich maritime heritage with a new vision for the future, as we celebrate this 300th anniversary year for Liverpool’s old dock – the world’s first commercial wet dock.”

Professor Ahmed Al-Shamma’a Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology at LJMU said:

“It’s well known that some manufacturers and other employers find it difficult to recruit the skills they need, especially in engineering and technology. This centre will provide new and niche activities that can bring together business and academia to bridge that gap, providing local firms and wider industry with the skilled staff they need to grow and compete. It’s absolutely vital for our economy, locally and nationally, that we provide this, to ensure the UK is able to call on the talents of the next generation of engineers and other talented innovators.”

The launch event was also addressed by government minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Under Secretary of State for Transport. He said:

“The UK is rightly known as a nation of invention and for centuries we have exported our products and talents across the world, particularly by sea. So, I’m very pleased to hear about this plan that will help individuals to develop their careers and local businesses to prosper, while also cementing our reputation as a world-leader in engineering and technology. It also complements the Northern Powerhouse initiative that aims to help the region unleash its full power and create a more balanced, healthier economy, which we are supporting with £13bn investment in transport infrastructure.”

Outline planning permission is already in place for the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone.

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