“Combined authority helped close the sustainability gap” – action case studies
Culture: Shakespeare North Playhouse
Knowsley MBC, where the Combined Authority is funding the construction of an Elizabethan Playhouse, was reversed for the Towns Fund, Future High Streets Fund and Upgrading Fund. His Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Tony Brennan (Lab), attributes this to his advisers “wearing red rosettes”.
Liverpool City Region CA has invested £10.55 million in building the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, as well as £8 million in upgrading the city’s train station and transport links. The investment is in line with the priorities of the joint authority; he believes this is the only place where culture is enshrined in his decentralization agreement.
The theatre, due to open this summer, seeks to capitalize on Shakespeare’s vastly underappreciated connection to Prescot, the birthplace of the playwright’s patron, the fifth Earl of Derby, who founded the Lord Strange’s Men theater company.
The vision of Playhouse CEO Melanie Lewis is not just for the theater to be a place for plays, but a place where “everyone in the North can discover, cultivate and art in their own way.”
“We know we have international and national audiences, but the first thing we need to focus on is making sure the people of Knowsley know it’s for them. Tea and toast for the community on a Tuesday morning will be just as important as the theater on Friday evening.
Industry: Glass Futures
Liverpool City Region CA is enabling the construction of a unique center for glass innovation and research, drawing inspiration from the rich history of glassmaking in St Helens.
It provided £10.3 million for the construction of the Glass Futures facility near long-standing local glass company Pilkington, where float glass production was invented. It is hoped that the center’s cutting-edge research will lead to the world’s first “net zero” glass production.
Liverpool City Region CA Mayor Steve Rotheram (Lab) told LGC that the idea of Glass Futures has been rejected by other regions. He backed it because it matched his own long-term ambitions. “We were looking at innovation and how you could steal a march towards the green industrial revolution, because my plan here is to become Britain’s renewable energy coast,” he said.
The £54million development, which is expected to be operational by July 2023, is also being funded by Liverpool City Council and government research and innovation body UKRI. Although glass is 100% recyclable, which makes it energy-intensive. Industrialists are eager to collaborate on decarbonization.
“It makes sense for the industry to come together to tackle this challenge, but they can also work individually in the space to research and develop their own business ideas,” says Katherine Chilvers, Development Director for site landowner Network Space. “The Combined Authority Grant has helped close the viability gap associated with such a bespoke development.”
Environment: Farm Urban paves the way to superior sustainability
Vertical farming social enterprise Farm Urban, operating out of a Victorian tunnel under Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, was about to sign up its first restaurant customer when Covid caused its market to disappear overnight.
“We were heavily in debt to the farm, with thousands of plants growing and no one to sell them to, and we were running out of money,” says managing director Paul Myers. “So we started a social media campaign and just said ‘all local charities to benefit from fresh produce, you’re welcome’.”
Farm Urban, which primarily grows lettuce leaves hydroponically, has received its combined initial funding of £5,000 to help it partner with another social enterprise to offer community bike deliveries. Within eight weeks, its products had all been sold or donated, with 100 boxes of products a week delivered to charities and community organisations.
Farm Urban then secured £24,000 from the Liverpool City CA Area Social Entrepreneurs Fund, enabling it to ‘survive this first lockdown’ by ‘keeping the lights on in the farm, because once you turn them off , it takes six to eight weeks to recover everything. operational,” says Dr. Myers.
“I’m just a young social entrepreneur who tries to do good, but we feel listened to”
With the social enterprise looking to scale up production and refine its processes, it then received just under £40,000 from the Combined Authority’s Future Innovation Fund. Dr. Myers employed a former Jaguar Land Rover “lean operations consultant” to help make its operation more robust. One year after implementation, agricultural production increased by 42%.
Dr Myers praises the combined authority for its accessibility, “all the way to the mayor”, adding: “I am just a young social entrepreneur trying to do good, but you feel listened to and supported. Before I knew what combined authority was, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.
Liverpool City Region’s vision of a green, healthy and inclusive economy reflects Farm Urban’s philosophy of supporting healthy eating. The growing process is energy-intensive, but Dr. Myers believes vertical farming can be made net-zero through renewable energy and its potential to regenerate traditional agricultural areas.
Salad crops and edible flowers are now harvested. There are plans for herbs, tomatoes and berries.
The farm education program serves the local community within a four-mile radius, but plans to offer community vertical farms in disused spaces such as vacant department stores or rooftop parking lots in the area and beyond. A Welsh town council is interested in a similar scheme.
“I would like to see public markets for our farm to supply fresh, healthy, pesticide-free food to council-owned nursing homes and schools,” says Dr Myers. “The future is about this transition from a grant-dependent organization to a self-sustaining organization with incredible products serving more than just profit – it’s for a purpose.”