Transformation kick-started with key partners and funding agreements

Peel Environmental’s plans for a northern hub for energy, innovation and industry have been revealed with the launch of Protos. The announcement signals the start of construction at the Protos strategic site – formerly known as Ince Park – commencing with the delivery of £170 million of investment into the Northern Powerhouse.

Peel’s Protos vision will see a collection of industries at the 126-acre site, themed around energy and innovation. It comes as a deal to deliver a 20MW biomass plant and timber processing facility at the site, at Ince, Cheshire, has reached financial close. Leading energy developer CoGen Ltd will construct and operate the facility at the first Protos plots, which will generate enough renewable energy to power around 40,000 homes and create up to 150 engineering and construction jobs.

Peel has also confirmed a multi-million pound loan from the North West Evergreen Fund to deliver phase one infrastructure at the site including construction of an access road. This key funding will unlock further development at Protos, which is set to create 3,000 jobs.

Peel Energy’s neighbouring 19-turbine, 50MW Frodsham wind farm will also form part of the wider Protos vision. Construction of the biomass facility, access road and wind farm have now begun on site, with contractors appointed and mobilised.

Myles Kitcher, Managing Director of Peel Environmental, said:

“We are proud to launch our Protos vision to create a strategic energy hub at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse. These first deals show investor confidence in the region and demonstrate how the private and public sector can unite to unlock forward-looking development and drive a Northern resurgence. This isn’t just aspirational – this is deliverable investment with spades already in the ground.

“Such significant investment will help us deliver a self-sustaining hub of businesses at Protos, centred on energy and innovation. We are also working to bring together industry and education in order to deliver this vision, which will be transformational for the North’s employment market and skills.”

The launch of Protos follows the Peel Group’s recent expression of strong support for the Northern Powerhouse, in which Group Chairman John Whittaker wrote to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to present a long-term strategy of facilitating investment across the North of England, £1 billion of which is already nearing completion, under construction or close to development.

William Church, director of Capital Advisors, CBRE and investment manager to the North West Evergreen Fund, added :

“Development funding in the UK region is changing, however there is still a need for alternative financing options to ensure vital regeneration projects can actually get built. We are delighted to have been able to originate this loan on behalf of the North West Evergreen Fund. Protos is a key development for the North West region and this new access road is crucial to unlocking further development and subsequent employment opportunities.”

Ian Brooking, Chief Executive of CoGen said:

“It is great to be the first mover at what will become a landmark energy destination for the North. Our facility will supply a renewable source of energy and we are delighted to be at the heart of Protos from day one. We are on site now and expect to be exporting power by 2017, adding to our growing portfolio of facilities across the UK.”

Peel is pleased to be working closely with the University of Chester’s neighbouring Thornton Science Park, creating a unique bond between education and industry. Linking Protos to the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering could further increase investment into the Atlantic Gateway region by creating a highly-skilled workforce. Further announcements about the relationship are expected in due course.

Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice Chancellor of University of Chester, said:

“Thornton Science Park is a national example of how cutting edge research can underpin the Northern advances in manufacturing, energy security and sustainability.   We share common goals with Peel to create a renowned hub for skills and industry at this location. By aligning Thornton and Protos, we can not only foster innovation and create a highly-skilled workforce, we can create an environment where such talent is retained in the North of England.”

The North West Evergreen Fund, which is made up of 16 local authority limited partners, was established to provide funding to support real estate projects, which is critical to the region’s economy, generating jobs and growth. It is capitalised through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and other public money allocated under the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (or “JESSICA”) initiative, which is managed by the European Investment Bank in the North West on behalf of the Homes and Communities Agency.

The Evergreen model provides loan funding to be invested in projects which will generate a financial return and will then be recycled back into the fund to help support further projects. The fund is advised by CBRE Indirect Investment Services Limited, the FCA regulated arm of CBRE, and co-chaired by Manchester City Council and Lancashire County Council.

Further details about Peel’s partners at Protos can be found on the newly-launched project website