Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani visited Wirral and gave her support to the facility, to be located in a Grade II-listed Victorian hydraulic tower in the docklands. Tony McDonough reports
Work on a £25m maritime training, research and business incubation hub on the banks of the Mersey, that would see the creation of up to 4,000 jobs could begin early this year.
Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani visited Wirral this week and gave her support to the Maritime Knowledge Hub, to be located in a Grade II-listed Victorian hydraulic tower in Wirral’s docklands.
Ms Ghani discussed the project with industry and council officials during her visit and is keen for it to go ahead as soon as possible. The Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy is focused on investment into the UK’s ports as the country gets ready to leave the European Union.
On her Twitter feed following the visit, she said: “Great site visit to Maritime Knowledge Hub, looking forward to returning to break ground on this educational & economic regeneration project.”
And, following the visit, she added: “A key part of growing our world class maritime industry is its people, and the Maritime Knowledge Hub will be vital in training the next generation of mariners and ensuring our industry continues to thrive.”
Focused on Liverpool city region’s £4bn maritime sector, the facility will provide up to 60,000 sq ft of new incubation space, teaching, research and development, training, commercial and cultural space.
The hydraulic tower is a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It suffered bomb damage in World War II. The scheme would transform the property and would be a huge asset within Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters scheme which is already seeing a number of developments under way.
Lead organisation on the Maritime Knowledge Hub is industry body Mersey Maritime which believes the facility, first unveiled at London Shipping Week more than four years ago, would be transformational for the maritime sector.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “Right from the outset, Mersey Maritime has backed this project which has the potential to have a transformational impact on the former dockland area of Birkenhead. We know the maritime industry is the driving powerhouse for jobs and growth in our region and the future will see this trend continue.”
Cllr Ian Lewis, leader of the Conservative group on Wirral Council, added: “It was fantastic to hear the minister give a very clear, unambiguous directive that we must now get the Maritime Knowledge Hub sorted.
“This iconic building has been derelict for far too long and bringing it back into use is a ‘win win’ for all of us – Mersey Maritime and their members get the space they need, new jobs are created for residents and additional business rates are generated for the council. It’s now four years since this project was first agreed, it’s time to crack on.”
Earlier in the day, Ms Ghani visited the Mersey Maritime headquarters in Birkenhead where she held a one-to-one meeting with Chris Shirling-Rooke before meeting with and addressing a number of the organisation’s members.
Richard Mawdsley, director of development for Wirral Waters at Peel L&P, who was part of the delegation that met with the Minister, also said: “The pioneering regeneration we are undertaking at Wirral Waters will act as a catalyst for the growth of the UK’s maritime sector. The Wirral has a proud heritage as a gateway to the world’s oceans and the development of the Maritime Knowledge Hub will continue that heritage long into the future.”
And leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Pat Hackett, added: “This is an incredibly innovative project which capitalises on the maritime strengths of Birkenhead and the Liverpool city region.”