14th December 2021

Network Space Developments (NSD) has appointed Bowmer + Kirkland to build the £54million Global Centre of Excellence at Saints Retail Park in St Helens.

The site, previously the former United Glassworks which closed in the late 1990’s, was later developed in part by NSD for a new stadium for St Helens Rugby League which opened in 2011.  Remediation and preparatory works will shortly complete and in January 2022, Bowmer + Kirkland will start construction of the transformational global glass research and innovation facility. The 165,000 sq ft scheme is expected to complete in January 2023, ready for fit-out.

The facility has been pre let to St Helens Borough Council on a 15 year head lease and will be sub let to Glass Futures which will occupy and manage the building to deliver industry and government backed research and development projects focused on decarbonising glass production. It will also provide a platform for the industry to access an experimental scale furnace to test and run trials for implementation at commercial scale on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.

Delivery of the project was conceived and is being managed by landowner and developer NSD, on behalf of a partnership  including not-for-profit research organisation Glass Futures , St Helens Borough Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI (UK Research & Innovation). This dynamic and fast-moving partnership has rapidly turned the Glass Futures concept into a deliverable and contracted scheme in less than two years. NSD will continue to manage the delivery of the project through to practical completion. The building has been presold by NSD to global investor Standard Life Investments Property Income Trust, part of abrdn, to secure forward funding and conclude a viable delivery strategy.  Property Agents B8 acted for Network Space with CBRE acting on behalf of abrdn.

Catherine Chilvers, Development Director at Network Space, said: “Bowmer + Kirkland starting on site within just two years of the Glass Futures scheme being first conceived is testament to our own commitment to the project and that of an exceptional partnership formed between ourselves, Glass Futures, St Helens Borough Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI.  Everyone has worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we are grateful to all for their significant efforts.  It will be truly fantastic to see a redundant former glass works site being transformed into a global R&D hub, once again securing St Helens position at the forefront of glass innovation and the transition to zero carbon glass production.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: “This is a massively important project, not only for our region but for the future of the planet. St Helens has always been a global leader in the glass industry with a proud industrial past. Glass Futures will help it maintain that prominence and give the town a significant role in the Green Industrial Revolution too.

“It’s fantastic to see that we’ll soon see spades in the ground and the site up and running soon after. The work being done to decarbonise the glass production process is of international significance and should have really important lessons for helping other industries to cut their carbon emissions.

“I want our region to be at the forefront of the race to save our planet. The Green Industrial Revolution will bring a lot of jobs, investment and opportunities; I want us to attract as much as possible to the Liverpool City Region. Projects like Glass Futures will help give us the track record to keep attracting other exciting new businesses.”

Councillor Richard McCauley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning at St Helens Borough Council, said: “St Helens is steeped in glass manufacturing, and we want to keep it that way at the heart of global innovation – having Glass Futures here will put us at the centre of sustainable glass making for decades to come in support of our climate emergency action plan and the reuse of brownfield sites.

“These are incredibly exciting times for the whole borough, with Glass Futures being the first of many ambitious schemes that will be coming out of the ground in St Helens over the coming months.”

Glass Futures has already created 24 FTE skilled jobs and expects to create and accommodate another 50 between now and when the facility is fully operational in 2023. Glass Futures and its partners will create opportunity for apprenticeships, training and upskilling across the glass and other foundation industry sectors. It is also set to attract further inward investment to the region as leading international glass companies focus resources to be within geographical reach of the facility.

Glass Futures’ Chief Executive, Richard Katz, said: “Starting on site is monumental, it enables the delivery of a global test-bed facility to develop processes to make glass the most sustainable and recyclable material available. The research, innovations and energy efficiencies we deliver here can be shared and harnessed by all global glass applications including packaging, glazing and glass fibre as well as across other foundation industries. This Global Centre of Excellence, working in partnership with its members and the global glass industry, will enable us to work collaboratively with our members, the supply chain and academia to ultimately achieve zero carbon glass.”

Mark Blyth, Deputy Fund Manager for abrdn, concluded: “We’re really pleased to be involved in this landmark development.  The strong environmental performance specification of the building, along with the occupiers aim to develop more sustainable methods  of glass production, aligns with the ESG focus of SLIPIT. We look forward to working with Network Space, Glass Futures and all the other partners to bring forward this exciting project.”


14th December 2021