If approved, Glass Futures will be built on the old United Glassworks site in St Helens

Commercial property developer Network Space has submitted a planning application to build a 160,000 sq ft laboratory for Glass Futures Ltd on the former United Glassworks site in St Helens.

The £54m Glass Futures development will be home to research and development in the glass and glazing sector, with an experimental glass melting facility to trial innovations.

Bowmer & Kirkland has been appointed as stage 1 contractor following a procurement process run via the North West Construction Hub.

The development is being funded through a mix of public and private investment. UK Research & Innovation has approved a £15m grant for the installation of the experimental furnace and infrastructure capable of producing 30 tonnes of glass per day. Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has promised £9m. Glass sector companies will also contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment to support the project. Landowner and developer Network Space is seeking private sector investment to support the construction costs.

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Network Space development director Catherine Chilvers said: “As landowner and developer, we have worked in partnership with St Helen’s Council and Glass Futures over the past two years to rapidly progress the design and development of this transformational project for the borough and in doing so, have established a hugely effective public/private sector delivery model.

“The submitted planning proposals will regenerate the former United Glassworks site and enable government and industry led research activity and training opportunities. The facility will create new jobs and support the transition of R&D to commercial applications, acting as a catalyst for further economic growth within St Helens.”

Glass Futures, a not-for-profit organisation, will operate the facility. Its chief executive, Richard Katz, said: “The planning submission is a great step forward in creating a facility that will deliver innovative technologies to make glass net zero. The centre of excellence will help us work collaboratively with our members, the supply chain and academia to achieve that aim.”

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