Developer Network Space has appointed contractor Bowmer + Kirkland to deliver Glass Futures, the £54m global centre of excellence for glassmaking innovation in Liverpool city region. Tony McDonough reports
Work will start in January on a £54m global centre of excellence for glassmaking innovation in Liverpool city region following the appointment of a contractor.
Liverpool developer Network Space (NSD), owner of the site at Saints Retail Park in St Helens, says Bowmer + Kirkland is to build the 165,000 Glass Futures facility that will create 80 new jobs. Work will begin in January 2022 and it will be ready for fit-out 12 months later.
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is investing £9m in the project with a further £15m coming from the Government’s UK Research and Innovation fund. Glass sector companies will contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment.
The facility has been pre let to St Helens Council on a 15-year head lease and will be sub-let to Glass Futures, a not-for-profit research and technology organisation. It will be used to deliver industry and Government-backed R&D projects focused on decarbonising glass production.
Glass manufacturing is responsible for 2m tonnes of CO2 per year in the UK alone and the 90,000 square foot facility will be centred around a 30-tonne/day low carbon demonstration furnace.
It will also provide a platform for the industry to access an experimental scale furnace to test and run trials for implementation at commercial scale on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.
St Helens has long been associated with glassmaking. In 1773, the British Caste Plate Glass Company was established at Ravenhead, now part of the town. In 1826 St Helens Crown Glass Company was founded by the Pilkington and Greenhall families.
In 1845 the name of the business was changed to Pilkington Brothers and the Pilkington name became famous across the world for glassmaking excellence. In June 2006, Japanese glassmaker Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) completed a £1.8bn takeover of the firm.
Pilkington still employs hundreds of people in the town and, earlier this year, it completed a successful five-day trial of running one of its furnaces using a mix of hydrogen and natural gas as part of a pilot scheme for the multi-billion pound HyNet project.
Delivery of Glass Futures is being managed by NSD. It has pre-sold the building to global investor Standard Life Investments Property Income Trust, part of abrdn, to secure forward funding and conclude a viable delivery strategy. Property Agents B8 acted for Network Space with CBRE acting on behalf of abrdn.
Catherine Chilvers, development director at Network Space, said: “Bowmer + Kirkland starting on site within just two years of the Glass Futures scheme being first conceived is testament to our own commitment to the project and that of an exceptional partnership.
“Everyone has worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we are grateful to all for their significant efforts. It will be truly fantastic to see a redundant former glass works site being transformed into a global R&D hub, once again securing St Helens position at the forefront of glass innovation and the transition to zero carbon glass production.”