A MASSIVE expansion of the University of Chester with the potential to support 2,000 jobs remains on course to open in 2014.
London-based property consultants GVA has been appointed to advise the institution on the development of Thornton Science Park.
Oil giant Shell UK gifted the 66-acre research and development base near Chester to the university earlier this year.
A new engineering and technology faculty will be created on the site while more than 20 businesses with high growth potential will be offered ‘incubator’ space and access to specialist knowledge, expertise, facilities and equipment.
Patrick Whitby, director of GVA, said: “Thornton Science Park is undoubtedly one of the most significant and deliverable projects to come to the north west market in recent years.
“We are delighted to have been chosen by the university to support the project’s development. The new faculty will complement and support high grade private sector companies active in the environmental, advanced manufacturing and automotive sectors and provide students with the opportunity to study at a world-class facility, alongside on-site science and technology employers.
“While science parks have proliferated in the UK and around the globe for at least three decades, this landmark project seeks to develop a new approach which is focused on building on the relationship between education, industry and government.”
Professor Tim Wheeler, university vice chancellor, announced the acquisition of the research and development base in March.
He said the university would move onto the site – which includes laboratories, workshops, offices, sports facilities and a restaurant – in phases.
As well as the new faculty, there will also be a dedicated science park and GVA has been instructed to advise the university on the development of the new campus and science park and to market the scheme to potential occupiers.
Smaller businesses working in the environmental, advanced manufacturing and automotive sectors will be able to benefit from access to the university’s specialist knowledge, expertise, facilities and equipment.
GVA also plans to target larger firms and multinationals which will have the opportunity to take advantage of a range of commercial options at the site through partnerships with the university and other stakeholders.
The first students will be admitted in 2014 with two buildings being adapted to provide a learning resource centre, teaching spaces and laboratories.
These will be occupied by academic and support staff, including technicians, librarians, administrators and those involved in business development and IT.
New subjects offered will include geotechnical engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.
When the acquisitions was announced, Prof Wheeler said: “The University of Chester has long been synonymous with ensuring Cheshire West and Chester is ‘open for business’ and our commitment at Thornton could bring up to 2,000 jobs over the next five years.
“Thornton, with 1,100,000 square feet of space in 48 buildings, is the most substantial acquisition in the university’s history, as the institution enters its 175th year and the next phase in its evolution, which should see it sitting more prominently on the international stage, and taking Cheshire West and Chester with it.”