FAQ 

PLANNING APPLICATION: CASE REF: 22/00569/OUT

INTRODUCTION from The Heath Park Team

Welcome to the FAQ section of our Heath Park website. Following our meeting with Beechwood and Heath Councillors 23 November 2022, we have jointly agreed the questions listed below.

If there is a question we haven’t covered please let your Councillors know and they will relay it to us.

If you have any comments on the proposals they need to be addressed to Halton BC Planning as it is they who will take your views into account in determining the application. Click here for HBC Official Form.

The FAQ list will be updated regularly.

FAQ’s UPDATED: 9th January 2023

Formerly the chemical headquarters of ICI and a vital employment centre for Runcorn, The Heath Business and Technical Park was created over 20 years ago following ICI’s decision to close the site and sell it to SOG Ltd. SOG has turned the once single-occupancy site into a multi-occupancy location which is acknowledged as one of the country’s leading independently run business and science parks.

Owned and operated by SOG Ltd, The Heath is today home to 124 individual companies that between them support over 2,000 jobs. Once a strictly private site, SOG has ensured The Heath is now an important and easily accessible community asset for the Borough of Halton. The Heath’s numerous events spaces, café and  leisure facilities are open for use by local residents and community organisations with a wide range of functions hosted for people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens. For further details visit: Home – The Heath Business and Technical Park

Heath Park will provide a positive future for the communities of Weston, Heath and Higher Runcorn and the wider area. 

For two decades The Heath has been nationally recognised as a highly successful and innovative business and technical park. However, looking to the future, SOG’s biggest challenge revolves around making a site which was constructed in the 1960s fit-for-purpose to meet the difficult challenges of climate change.

The Heath now stands at a crossroads. Although a successful business whose model has been successfully translated to other sites around the UK, its buildings and infrastructure are ageing and require significant investment. Standing still is not an option.

The vision for Heath Park evolved from a global competition, staged by RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) and sponsored by SOG, which challenged architects, designers, planners and forward thinkers to create a sustainable futuristic environment, powered by renewable energy, where people can live, work and play. This competition generated over 50 entries from across the world and formed the foundation for a dynamic regeneration vision described as a ‘Beacon Project’ by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram. The aim is for Heath Park to become a 21st Century eco-friendly version of Port Sunlight. 

For more than three years a team of experts appointed by SOG have methodically researched and validated how the location can be regenerated in a realistic and commercially viable venture for ethical investors. Predicted trends for future living including employment, housing, leisure, community, transport and energy consumption have been assessed in a feasibility study, carried out in conjunction with Lancaster and Liverpool Universities, to scrutinise the potential for the site.

This research exercise has led to the submission by SOG for outline planning permission of  its masterplan to reinvigorate the site. The award-winning vision for Heath Park has been acclaimed locally, regionally and nationally. Heath Park is now one of 35 ethical schemes promoted by the UK in the Government’s Global Investment Atlas – one of only two projects showcased from the Northwest and Wales.  

In conclusion, it is not a real estate proposal. It’s ethos is the health and well-being of a sustainable, interdependent living and working community designed to evolve over time and able to adapt to social, environmental and economic change. It takes its cue from Port Sunlight and intends to be a 21st+ Century version of a place where people can live, work and play.

SOG Group are the owners and operators of The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn,

SOG was formed from the Site Operations Group of ICI. John Lewis was a  founder member of SOG in 1999 along with former ICI managers.  John had worked on the site as a contractor since 1977. He ultimately became the major shareholder in SOG in 2010.  For more than 20 years John has been the driving force  to secure The Heath Business and Technical Park as a key employment and community asset for the Borough and has been the inspirational figure behind the vision to create Heath Park.

The Heath Business and Technical Park is currently home to 124 individual businesses that between them support the employment of around 2,000 people. It has also opened facilities on site for use by the local community.

SOG also offer specialist technical support and services to the resident businesses many of whom are at the very cutting edge of scientific R&D, providing high-quality employment in Runcorn. 

For further details visit: Homepage – SOG

The land North of Heath Road South is owned by the SOG Pension Fund.

  1. The application is being submitted by SOG Group.
  2. It is an application for Outline Planning Permission with all matters reserved for development and re-structuring of The Heath Business and Technical Park and land to the north of Heath Road South comprising retention of existing but reconfigured B1/B2 space, and creation of up to 545 residential units: new vertical farm (B2): hotel, conference, shops, restaurant/café, drinking establishment and health/fitness centre ( C2, E(a), E(c)iii, E(b), Sui Generis, and E(d) respectively), together with associated infrastructure, landscape and biodiversity improvements at Heath Business And Technical Park And Land North Of Heath Road South
  3. In essence it is a strategy to protect and future-proof the employment and community facilities provided at The Heath. 

As of 29th November the current status of the application is:

  • Neighbourhood consultations closed on 24th November 2022
  • The scheme has been released to consultees and HBC are awaiting responses
  • The date scheduled for determination is 27th January 2023.

The scheme has an approach to social and environmental sustainability which proposes a sustainable balance between people and the environment. The amounts of development have therefore been determined such that positive environmental and social benefits are achieved. This approach has received global recognition having been included in the UK’s first Global Investment Atlas (promoted by the Department for International Trade) and has also resulted in receiving the prestigious Pineapple Award for Future Place (sponsored by the Design Council).

Although the Project requires a fair return on investment, its main drivers are the creation of  a living/working community with health and well-being at its core. 

First of all the scheme is designed to futureproof the employment opportunities presented at The Heath, by protecting jobs and skills and introducing new industries and technologies that will attract high quality employment in to the area. The scheme complements existing businesses in the area. It is anticipated that growth in the coming years will increase demand and opportunities to existing businesses to expand.

No jobs will be lost, the scheme will create well in excess of 1,000 more jobs than currently exist.

This is known as MUA10 in the draft local plan, which is The Heath Business and Technical Park, circa 46 acre site and is currently designated as primarily employment. However, it has been identified by Halton Borough Council over the last 14 years, as a desirable mixed use environment.

  1. Heath Road South land, known as the “North Site” is an 11 acre plot, classified by landscape and ecology specialists as low-grade scrubland and let out at a peppercorn rent for the grazing of horses. Circa 6 acres of the plot forms part of our submission and its inclusion in the Heath Park Project stems originally from HBC’s 2010 paper “The Heath: 2030 and Beyond”. The site is currently private land, owned by the SOG Pension Fund, and the proposed masterplan will see it improved in landscape and ecological quality and opened up to public access. It is worth noting that the Heath Park scheme overall opens up almost 22 Acres of greenspace to public use (twice the 11 acres forming the north site).
  2. Currently allocated as greenspace in the Adopted DALP, this site has previously received planning permission for a hotel/country club at the southern end adjoining Heath Road South and was re-allocated for residential use by Halton BC in the submitted DALP. The DALP examination in public saw objection from HSE for this site (and others) resulting in the Inspector’s recommendation that the proposed allocation for residential (as well as the proposal for mixed use allocation for the main site) be omitted. HSE’s representations were based on outdated information (information supplied to them in the mid-90s so nearly thirty years old) and SOG with Halton BC have commissioned specialists to determine the true present-day hazards from Weston installations that present health risk to Runcorn’s population. The Specialist’s preliminary findings included in this application show a significant reduction in the risk of harm to the public and counter HSE’s statements at the Examination in Public. 
  • The masterplan for Heath Park was commissioned on the basis of the submitted DALP and the residential component for this site is integral to the whole scheme and conforms with HBC Planning for Risk Policy 2022.

Both the main site and the land to the north of Heath Road South have been extensively surveyed over recent years and results have confirmed there are no contamination issues to prevent development. This has been certified by Halton Borough Council and consequently ICI removed all previous ICI restrictive covenants in 2019. This has been further validated by Halton Borough Council on 08th June 2022 as part of the Phase 1 Preliminary Risk Assessment for this planning application (Phase 2 levels of investigation were included in the assessments).

Specifically, it has been confirmed by specialists (commissioned by SOG and HBC) that contamination risk from the former Weston Quarries (HCBD and others) is not present now or will be in the future. 

This will be a phased development and completion will likely be within 10 years. This will be subject to some external factors, such as phasing of the development plan to minimise disruption to existing resident businesses and neighbours. Additionally external factors, although Heath Park is not dependent on such, the delivery of the Hynet hydrogen infrastructure may influence the sequence of development.

  1. A full Transport Analysis has been carried out and is being assessed by HBC consultees: HBC are awaiting their response.
  2. Analysis shows around a doubling of vehicle movements at peak hours and an overall daily increase of approx. 20% on top of existing as it is today. However, it is worth noting that the traffic load from Heath Park will be less than that imposed during ICI’s use of the site.
  3. The scheme is designed to avoid (and over the coming years reduce) the need for private car ownership, encouraging walking, cycling, and the use of public transport and car clubs.
  4. The “North Site” will be exclusively accessed from Heath Road South.
  5. Employment traffic (and all construction traffic for the main site) will be via the Weston Expressway Link Road entrance.

A broad-brush assessment of additional places needed as a result of Heath Park was carried out during the feasibility stage of design development and this indicated that capacity is available. This will be looked at in more detail at the detail planning stage.

The site is currently private land, owned by the SOG Pension Fund, and the proposed masterplan will see it improved in landscape and ecological quality and opened up to public access.

This application seeks to develop circa 6 acres of this low grade land only, with the rest remaining ‘as is’.

It is important to note that the North Site is part of one scheme, which includes The Heath Business and Technical Park and we have identified circa. 22 acres of new publicly accessible greenspace that will greatly increase the quality of landscape and biodiversity that can be shared for generations to come.   

Heath Park’s impact on the environment has been one of the more important drivers (along with health and well-being) behind the scheme. An independent study by Liverpool John Moores University shows improvements across the board to the environment (eg. Climate regulation, noise, pollution and air quality).

Improvements to landscape quality and enhancements to habitat are built into the scheme, chiefly through the introduction of the “Pylon Meadows” and new connections between green spaces.

We are proud that the scheme will provide environmental improvements across the board as part of our mission to provide a place which promotes health and well-being for all.

In conclusion the environmental impact will be overwhelmingly positive as the scheme has introduced 3 times more publicly accessible high quality greenspace.

545 fit-for-purpose, carbon negative residential units of various sizes and types. Amongst many features, it also addresses a problem that has been growing over recent years in Runcorn by providing the opportunity for local residents who do not wish to leave the area, but wish to downsize, to release existing larger housing stock more suitable for families.

The type, size and location of the various units are designed to be adaptable, inclusive, zero-energy solutions for an inter-generational living and working community.

See schedule in planning application form at APP_2200569OUT.pdf (halton.gov.uk)

It is a sustainable way of growing food close to where it is consumed with vertical farms at the moment growing mainly leafy green crops such as lettuce, spinach and herbs. The produce is grown in layers stacked one on top of the other in a closely controlled environment. The range of plants that can be grown is expanding all the time; strawberries, blueberries and wheat are among some of the crops that are currently being trialled.

  • Its advantages are that it uses 90% less water than traditional soil-based methods, it does not require the use of pesticides, and can be positioned close to local populations minimising the need for transport (and the energy use, pollution, and loss of freshness that follows). Vertical Farms can also reduce the need for intensive conventional farming allowing agricultural land to recover its natural role as a habitat for wildlife. This was highlighted by David Attenborough in his recent series A Life On Our Planet 

    We have also commissioned a study of the social benefit a Vertical Farm could bring. Our “Field of the Future”, a circa 5,000 sq.m. building, will result in a contribution of some £14M/year to local health, education and climate improvement.

  • The main challenge is the considerable energy needed to power lighting and maintain suitable temperature and humidity. The Heath Park “Field of the Future” will be powered by clean energy by using hydrogen from the forthcoming HyNet hydrogen pipeline network. SOG, in conjunction with The University of Liverpool, carried out a controlled experiment at The Heath which shows that food can be grown with hydrogen power in a Carbon negative way: i.e. We can grow food AND reduce carbon dioxide at the same time

  • We anticipate somewhere in the region of 50 skilled, green jobs being created by our “Field of the Future”. It will provide employment opportunities beyond HeathPark. The supply chain supporting our “Farm of the Future”, replicable model, will contribute to replacing local declining heavy chemical industries.
  • As food grown is intended for the local population, we anticipate service traffic to mainly be cargo bicycles and zero emissions electronic vans.

Throughout the development cycle our bespoke process “The Fusion Process”  is referenced.

The Fusion Process is a five-stage, systematic and consistent approach to designing and delivering real estate developed by SOG Ltd that aims to combine multi-disciplinary team’s skills and knowledge to deliver cohesive, creative solutions by considering the site as part of a wider economic, social and environmental system, with a focus on vision and values throughout the development process.

The full document is linked here: FUSION WEBLINK

  1. Heath Park is as much about people as it is about business. Facilities currently available to the community will be enhanced by additional new ones helping to support our aim of improving health and well-being in Runcorn.
  2. To understand and manage social issues we have used the principles of  ‘Well-being’  in dealing with the root causes of many of today’s social problems. Furthermore, ‘Well-being’ encompasses a much broader range of topics and benefits which is why the expertise of Liverpool and Lancaster Universities has been integral in the design of our vision for a sustainable living and working community.
  3. The resulting proposals, health-checked by specialist assessors and both universities, project significant benefits to The Heath and surrounding areas. These include:
  • The aim to reduce the need for private cars by promoting walking and cycling. Increasing the accessibility to green space and the use of communal transport will reduce air pollution and improve general health, saving nearly 4 lives per year and also reducing the burden on (and the cost to) the NHS from general health issues.
  • The intended use of hydrogen as an energy source and a Vertical Farm providing the freshest local source of food will contribute even more to our ‘well-being’ aspirations.
  • The mix of generations and social groups, along with the management regime, is intended to promote and maintain pride and care of place. This has a number of benefits including reducing loneliness and crime, but significantly stabilises the community by providing the opportunity for an existing ageing population to stay in the area while downsizing to more manageable accommodation, thus releasing larger homes to their younger families.
  • Alongside the new science-related jobs that will be created as a direct result of the re-vitalisation of the existing Business and Technical Park, there will be lots of opportunities for smaller local businesses and charities. These organisations can develop existing or new skills in Arts, Crafts and Recycling/Repurposing as part of the Heath Park ethos to offer local people a chance to influence how the location will look and feel.  This could range from creating bespoke components to personalise new homes to running a re-purposing business where unwanted household items might be refurbished or recycled for further use, to potentially help the poor and needy within our community. 
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If you have any general enquiries about Heath Park, please email: tim.metson@heathpark-uk.com

or, please call us +44 (0)1483 801092 / +44 (0)7974 674876