IPPE Croda Wirral

Plans unveiled for redundant chemical works

Barry Turnbull

A US firm that specialises in reviving redundant industrial land is planning a £35m makeover for a former chemical works on Merseyside.

The scheme includes creating new space for businesses that could attract 2,000 jobs and building 180 homes on the site adjacent to the River Mersey in Wirral.

The Croda chemical factory at Bromborough Pool closed two years ago with the loss of over 100 jobs.

Talks have been held with Wirral Council about the proposals put forward by Dibbin Estates, an affiliate of the world's biggest used plant and equipment trader International Process Plants & Equipment, which now owns the site.

IPPE's business model, which it calls 'active transfer', involves taking on contaminated industrial land and making it fit for future use. Its first scheme in Europe was the development of the former Kodak factory in Knowsley.

To make the Wirral scheme viable it has included a housing estate even though the land is designated for employment use.

Dibbin spokesman Tom Nash said talks with the council had been productive: "We have put together a masterplan and have held discussions with the council who seem to be broadly supporting what we are trying to achieve.

"We have also carried out an environmental assessment and there don't appear to be any big issues to deal with in that respect. We have just carried out a public consultation exercise which seemed to go well and once that feedback has been looked at in detail we will submit plans possibly in December or the new year.

"Our proposals will regenerate land, provide employment opportunities, create new homes and breathe life into the nearby Bromborough Pool village."

The site comprises 30 acres and about 250,000 sq ft of warehousing, offices and laboratory accommodation and all of the remaining plant and equipment, which is available for re-use.

The existing production units processed up to 125,000 tonnes of natural oils and fats to produce fatty acids, glycerine and a range of esters. The old factory will make way for an area of clean development land and the intention once planning is in place is to attract industrial and housing developers.

Planning consultants Nathaniel Lichfield from Manchester and Birkenhead-based architects Ainsley Gomman are working on the scheme.

Wirral Council say the plans have only been subject to preliminary discussions.

In Knowsley, WSP Environment & Energy, a consultancy, took on the liabilities and remediated the site for the new owner. They converted the old buildings on the 500,000 sq ft site into a business park that now hosts several companies. WSP used its knowledge of the US market to draw up the agreement, together with Macfarlanes, the law firm. It found a US insurer, ACE Group, willing to underwrite any cost overruns or unexpected discovery of pollutants. The three parties paid an agreed sum into a ringfenced account and WSP was able to return 25% of the funds to them as costs were less than expected.

Kodak was able to remove around half of the provisions it had made for the site from its balance sheet, knowing that future risks were covered by insurance.

A spokesman for Knowsley Council said: "IPPE did take the former Kodak site about five years ago and formed the company Acorn Developments to run the site, which is now called Image Business Park. Since then they have remediated some of the site and leased parts out to other businesses including Ames Goldsmith, Future Industrial Services and MRM. A approximately one third of the site is now occupied."

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