Wirral engineering college plan for historic dock tower

A disused grade 2-listed Victorian building on the banks of the Mersey is set to be converted into an education centre for advanced manufacturing and engineering skills by a partnership of Mersey Maritime, Liverpool John Moores University and the Peel Group.

The Hydraulic Tower, which was once used to drive the lock gates and bridges in the Birkenhead Docks, is to undergo a £20m redevelopment over the next three years.

The development site is within the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone, partly focused on advanced manufacturing and engineering, automotive, energy, maritime and business services.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, acting chief executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “This is a real partnership between local private and public sector organisations, working towards a common cause. We have a unique chance to create a lasting legacy by developing knowledge, increasing productivity and driving our economy forward. As well as the direct benefits to employers, we see the knowledge hub as having huge potential to act as a catalyst for other developments, both in creating an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and in helping to regenerate this part of the community.”

Gary Hodgson, chief operating officer of Peel Ports, part of the Peel Group, said: “We’re building a new gateway to the UK economy in the form of our Liverpool2 deep-water container terminal. We have the Manchester Ship Canal, two international airports on our doorstep and a recent £13bn government investment in rail and road networks. It all adds up to a world-class supply chain and enviable connectivity. So what better place to create this exciting development to help provide the innovators and entrepreneurs who can lead our growing economy. It also brings together the area’s rich maritime heritage with a new vision for the future, as we celebrate this 300th anniversary year for Liverpool’s old dock – the world’s first commercial wet dock.”

Prof Ahmed Al-Shamma’a, executive dean of the faculty of engineering and technology at LJMU, said: “It’s well known that some manufacturers and other employers find it difficult to recruit the skills they need, especially in engineering and technology. This centre will provide new and niche activities that can bring together business and academia to bridge that gap, providing local firms and wider industry with the skilled staff they need to grow and compete. It’s absolutely vital for our economy, locally and nationally, that we provide this, to ensure the UK is able to call on the talents of the next generation of engineers and other talented innovators.”

Outline planning permission is already in place for the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone.

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