Glass Futures, the UK’s test bed for the future of glass production, could rejuvenate a prime town centre gateway site as a preferred site was unveiled following meetings with international glass industry figures in St Helens.
CGI images of the proposed centre show the £70 million ground-breaking facility in its new potential location on the disused United Glass site next to the Totally Wicked Stadium.
St Helens Council leader Councillor Derek Long welcomed the plan to develop the brownfield site.
He said: “Bringing a nationally important industrial innovation facility to this borough is hugely exciting. It’s particularly fitting for St Helens, synonymous with glass for so long, to continue our proud tradition of leading the glass industry. This new site will rejuvenate a derelict plot of brownfield land which is at a key point on the gateway into the town centre.
“Along with our partners including Pilkington Glass, British Glass and Network Space among others we believe that Glass Futures will bring top research jobs to the borough and prove to be a catalyst to further investment in high-tech industry in this area and we will continue to work with them all to bring this vision into a reality.
“I’ve recently held positive discussions with government officials. This is a very real prospect for the borough of St Helens.
“There’s still some more work to do but seeing the industry come together, and for Steve Rotheram, the Metro Mayor, to also attend, shows just how important and real an opportunity this is.”
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, also endorsed the plan at a meeting with the UK and international glass industry which took place at The World of Glass last month to discuss the national centre of excellence for glass innovation earmarked for the borough.
He said: “Glass Futures is an internationally significant industrial innovation project. It aims to increase the productivity of the glass industry and reduce its carbon impact.
“It’s a ‘win-win’ project because we have innovation benefits, environmental benefits and high-value jobs coming from it.
“To bring such an internationally important project to St Helens would be fantastic news for St Helens itself but also for the whole Liverpool City Region. That’s why I’m delighted to support a great and innovative project in this part of the Liverpool City Region.”
At the event key industry players, academics, politicians and St Helens’ Economy Board chairman met to add their backing the final design and operating model, ahead of further discussion with the Government.
Eamonn McManus, chairman of the St Helens Economy Board, added: “Just over the last year alone, St Helens has accounted for nearly half of the jobs growth in the Liverpool City Region.
“And this is in addition to its investment and its job creation. I think it’s symbolically very strong to the town of St Helens, whose entire history has been embedded in the glass industry, and has been at the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution, that such a prestigious project is highly likely to be taking place in this town.
“It’s yet another feather in the cap of the town and its economic growth, which has really taken off over the last 12 to 24 months and is looking likely to accelerate.”
In early 2018 St Helens was announced as one of two locations across the UK to become home to Glass Futures with the former United Glass Peasley site set to be the preferred site to focus on the “hot” side of glass production. This would see the installation of a large experimental glass furnace capable of producing 30 tonnes of glass per day of a composition suitable for windows, buildings, bottles and fibre glass.
In December, Government announced a £66m fund for ‘transforming foundation industries’ which would be accessible to the sectors of glass, ceramics, chemicals, steel and cement as well as a £170m fund to support these industries to reduce their carbon emissions. It is likely that Glass Futures will be funded from these government sources alongside industry contributions.
David Dalton, chief executive of British Glass, added: “We’ve had great support from St Helens Council in developing the Glass Futures project and are looking forward to ongoing discussions in the borough.
“It’s an important project for the whole of the UK glass sector and being able to work with a place that really understands glass is a great advantage.”
The site in St Helens could create around 50 jobs directly, with hundreds of indirect jobs in total.