SOG Group owner John Lewis MBE says he sees no reason why Liverpool can’t become the UK’s ‘second city’ again as it was 100 years ago.
Appearing at Real Estate Live UK roadshow, hosted by Liverpool City Region, Mr Lewis said his business, in the Borough of Halton and part of the Combined Authority area, is located in “a place to invest in, a place that is growing”.
Mr Lewis, the inspiration behind the vision to transform The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn into Heath Park, a Net Zero 21st century version of Port Sunlight, was on a panel discussing Liverpool City Region’s Inclusive Communities.
In a session before a live audience at Liverpool City Town Hall and accessed virtually, Mr Lewis explained how SOG had transformed the former ICI headquarters at The Heath into a multi-occupancy business and technical park which is now home to around 150 businesses supporting over 2,000 jobs.
He said 1960s buildings had been successfully regenerated and repurposed to support firms across 22 different sectors of business. However, he said the time has come to look to future and ensure The Heath is prepared to meet the challenges of the future.
Mr Lewis said this led to his vision for ‘Heath Park’ which evolved from SOG sponsoring a global competition run by RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, which attracted over 50 entries from architects, forward thinkers and designers from around the world. The competition generated amazing ideas on the vision of future living with a raft of fascinating propositions on future trends in employment, housing, leisure, community, energy consumption and sustainable food supplies.
Through repurposing existing buildings alongside new developments to create a Net Zero carbon environment powered by renewable energy, SOG intends to create a unique community where people can live, work and play, and which meets the challenges of Climate Change. Mr Lewis said he wasn’t inventing anything particularly new but wants to simply create a 21st century version of Port Sunlight, powered by renewable energy, in a model that could be replicated nationally and internationally.
“Heath Park will signal the rebirth of Runcorn,” said Mr Lewis who is currently seeking investors to turn his vision into reality. He added that his Liverpool City Region ‘Beacon Project’ has been validated by the Department for International Trade and is one of just two projects from the North-West and Wales in the UK’s Global Investment Atlas, which features 35 ethical schemes being promoted around the world by the Government. Mr Lewis said he was grateful for the support of the DIT and the Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone.
A focal part of the Heath Park vision is Vertical Farming. Mr Lewis has been working alongside renowned Vertical Farming expert Dr Paul Myers, co-founder of Liverpool’s Farm Urban, who has been undertaking pioneering research at The Heath to develop a Vertical Farming model powered by renewable energy that can grow Net Zero produce. Dr Myers took part in a separate Real Estate Live UK panel session which discussed science and innovation within the Liverpool City Region and why the region is so attractive to leading businesses in life sciences and manufacturing.
Dr Myers said: “I would like to share my vision for the city of the future: if we look out over Liverpool today, I see pride, innovation, capacity and a lot of concrete. If I fast forward 5,10,15,20 years I think the pride will remain, the innovation will continue to grow and the capacity and concrete will be replaced with green, with that green the city will become a cleaner, healthier, more inclusive place.
“But how we green our cities is up for grabs, we could plant more trees or install green roofs, both of which have merit, they will certainly green the city and increase biodiversity. However, I believe there is a better way. A way that provides high tech meaningful jobs, supplies fresh nutritious food, cleans the cities air, hosts an education and visitor centre; a place where people can eat, drink and socialise. This is delivered through a network of community embedded vertical farms. “
Mr Lewis said he envisaged Heath Park’s Vertical Farm ultimately being powered with Hydrogen from the HyNet Hydrogen supply infrastructure once it comes online. He said that he hoped to see numerous Vertical Farms powered by Hydrogen and other renewable energy sources operating across the North-West in the future and that the model could also be replicated on a national and global scale.
Mr Lewis’s panel session was chaired by Melanie Leech CBE, Chief Executive of the British Property Foundation, included Chris Capes, Development Director – Liverpool Waters, Peel L&P; Rob Deacon, Senior Asset Manager – Liverpool One, Grosvenor Property UK; Lisa Harris, Executive Director for Places Services, St Helens Council; Stephen Watson, Executive Director, Sefton Council.
The panel explored the regeneration opportunities levelling up will offer the region’s town centres and discussed where investment potential is likely to be created for new homes and neighbourhoods, and future development that will help to retain and attract talent.
Dr Myers’ panel session was chaired by Nick Walkley, UK Strategy Head, Avison Young, alongside Katherine Fairclough, Chief Executive, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority; Professor Janet Hemmingway CBE, Director, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; Tony Reeves, Liverpool City Council and Andrew Rose, Assistant Director of Innovation, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
About SOG Group
SOG Group is one of the UK’s top independent operators of business and science parks and are renowned site regeneration specialists. SOG own The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, Cheshire, which is home to over 120 individual businesses that between them support the employment of around 2,000 people. Using The Heath business model, SOG created a consultancy operation under the name of ‘Fusion’. SOG’s Fusion team spearheaded the regeneration of a massive site in east London, formerly home to a global pharmaceutical company, where it created Londoneast-uk Business and Technical Park. Until February 2019, SOG operated Londoneast-uk as a sister Park to The Heath before selling it to a company owned by the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. Through its Fusion concept, SOG helped to generate over £2 billion of inward investment to the Dagenham site regeneration programme.
SOG’s Runcorn operation is a unique example of how a successful science and technology park should operate. Many of the organisations located in the facilities are at the very cutting-edge of scientific R&D, with firms specialising from nanotechnology to carbon emissions research and from pioneering work on hip and knee joint replacements to water and waste-water treatment technology. As The Heath site has reached full capacity, SOG has embarked on a new build-programme which allows existing fast-growing resident businesses to move out of multi-occupancy units into their own exclusive bespoke buildings, designed and built by SOG’s team. SOG is currently working on the vision to transform The Heath into a Net Zero carbon environment over the next decade through the creation of Heath Park.
Media contact: Paul Smith Associates (PSA) +44 (0) 7771 623 007