CITY MP Stephen Mosley has welcomed the University of Chester’s planned expansion.
University leaders hope to create up to 2,000 jobs and attract students from around the world after taking over Shell UK’s research and development base in Thornton.
Professor Tim Wheeler, university vice chancellor, said an engineering and technology faculty would be created on the 66-acre site.
More than 20 businesses with high growth potential will be offered ‘incubator’ space and access to specialist knowledge, expertise, facilities and equipment at the former Shell Technology Centre.
Prof Wheeler said the university would also establish a dedicated science park in a bid to attract multi-national companies to the region.
Mr Mosley said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any university, and it is fantastic it is our very own University of Chester which is set to benefit.
“The facilities at Thornton are world-class and I cannot wait for our students and local businesses to be able to benefit from them.
“The fact that this deal is set to go ahead is testament to the hard work of all stakeholders, and also a vote of confidence in our city’s university, students, and economy.”
Shell UK confirmed last year the research base would close in 2014 with about 500 jobs being relocated to Germany, Manchester and London.
Prof Wheeler said the university would move onto the site – which includes laboratories, workshops, offices, sports facilities and a restaurant – in phases over the next 18 months.
He said the university would be investing in the site using Government funding, income from recruiting 500 students, rent from businesses based on the site and consultancy fees from research projects.
The first students will be admitted in 2014 with two buildings being adapted to provide a learning resource centre, teaching spaces and laboratories.
New subjects offered will include geotechnical engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.
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.”