Unilever ‘close’ to sale of Wirral R&D site

A multi-million pound disposal of part of Unilever’s research campus for residential development is close to completion, LBN has learned. Tony McDonough reports

Unilever
Unilever’s research and development facility in Bebington. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

Consumer products giant Unilever is close to concluding the multi-million pound sale of part of its research and development campus in Wirral.

Unilever put an eight-acre plot up for sale in 2020 and tasked property agents at Cushman & Wakefield with finding a buyer. The land is seen as suitable for residential development in what is primarily a residential area.

Hundreds of scientists and support staff work in the world-renowned facility in Bromborough Road, which is separate from the main personal care products factory nearby. The R&D site is in Bebington, just outside Port Sunlight village.

Unilever is planning to revamp another part of the site to create an upgraded laboratory, consumer centre, collaboration space and restaurant facilities in a reported £40m investment.

In the last few days the company has told LBN that the legal process of the sale was “ongoing” but LBN understands a deal to sell the site is close. Although planning permission for new homes has not yet been applied for it is believed such a project would fit in with Wirral Council’s local development plan.

Unilever said in a statement: “In February 2020, we shared details of a planned investment in one of our existing buildings on our Port Sunlight research and development site, with also the intention to vacate buildings and sell part of our R&D site adjacent to Quarry Road East and part of St Andrew’s Road.

“This investment in our Port Sunlight R&D site is to create more modern, leading-edge facilities for employees, with an upgraded laboratory and workspace, and to ensure it is fully fit for the future. The work is still on-going.

“Going forward our employees will be accommodated in these new facilities, and our Advanced Manufacturing Centre on our R&D site, as well as in the world-class Materials Innovation Factory at the University of Liverpool.

“The land we are selling has been proposed for residential use but, as the legal process is still ongoing, we are unable to provide further information at this point.”

 

Unilever
Factory built by William Hesketh Lever in Port Sunlight now owned by Unilever. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

In January 2020, LBN revealed that Unilever was cutting 225 jobs from its 1,800-strong workforce at Port Sunlight, with roles in IT, research and development and factory production being made redundant.

The factory was opened by industrialist William Hesketh Lever in 1886 to manufacture soap. By 1888 he had started work on a village surrounding the site to house its workers. He called this part of his business model “prosperity-sharing”.

He built homes, communal spaces and even a theatre and to this day Port Sunlight remains one of the most picturesque parts of Merseyside, attracting 300,000 tourists every year.

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