Thornton Science Park, Chester, P.Thornton Science Park
Subject to planning approval, the scheme could complete in 2023. Credit: via McDaid PR

Cheshire Observatory eyes Thornton Science Park home 

Dan Whelan

The £31m geological research facility was originally planned for land at Ince Marshes, but unsuitable subsurface conditions prompted a rethink. 

When finished, it will be one of the UK Geoenergy Observatories, which are operated by the British Geological Survey and focus on conducting research into subsurface energy storage technologies to aid decarbonisation efforts.

The organisation has now shifted its attention to Thornton Science Park and aims to submit a planning application for the project in October. 

Thornton Science Park spans 66 acres off Ince’s Pool Lane next to Stanlow oil refinery and Peel’s Protos energy hub and is owned and occupied by Chester University.

Subject to planning approval by Cheshire West & Chester Council, the £31m observatory scheme could complete in 2023. 

Ramboll is the principal designer for the project and JLL is the planning consultant.

Originally, planning permission was granted for the Cheshire Observatory to be built at Ince Marshes in August 2019.  

However, recent ground investigations unearthed several issues that would impede the centre’s day-to-day operations, such as drilling boreholes. 

The proposed Thornton Science Park observatory is to feature a network of 20, 100-metre boreholes to carry out underground investigations into the effectiveness of thermal energy storage. 

Ground investigations at Thornton Science Park are underway and construction of the observatory could begin next May if planning is approved. 

Mike Spence, science director at the British Geological Survey for the UK Geoenergy Observatories, said: “Relocating the observatory to Thornton Science Park will deliver a world-class research facility for scientists and innovators working in subsurface energy storage to meet the challenges associated with decarbonising our society.” 

“The Cheshire Observatory will provide unique insight into the response of the subsurface to energy transfer and storage with real-time, 3D-imaging of subsurface processes.” 

Professor Eunice Simmons, vice-chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “Thornton Science Park provides an excellent location for the Cheshire Observatory, not just in terms of the site’s physical features, but also in terms of the university’s regional and national networks. 

“We are a national hub for clean growth expertise and innovation and home to multinationals and SMEs which complement the research that will take place at the Observatory.” 

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