Marchon Works

Whitehaven, Cumbria

Landcare, the bespoke liability transfer service has completed another managed exit, this time for European chemical giants, Rhodia. Landcare, through its special purpose vehicle Whitehaven Developments Ltd, has taken freehold ownership and environmental liability for the former ‘Marchon Works’ chemical complex in Whitehaven, Cumbria. Occupying some 400 acres in total, the site comprises of 3 former landfill sites, two of which required permit transfer, 200 acres of former chemical plant hardstanding, a former gatehouse and weighbridge, a waste water treatment plant and over 2 miles of secure steel palisade fencing.

The estate also includes 200 acres of tenanted farmland and a strategic coastal footpath.

In its heyday, the chemical works was world renowned and employed some 5000 people and boasted collieries, coking works, acid plants, power stations and surfactant manufacturing facilities. The site commenced operations in 1941 (relocated from London to avoid the blitz) and very soon started producing the first detergents in the world and also boasted being the largest single site producer of sulphuric acid in Europe. The site finally closed in 2005 and the buildings were subsequently demolished and the site remains undeveloped to this day.

Undertaking a lengthy and thorough risk assessment process, the site has an extant Part IIA liability which will be completed by Landcare later this year and 2 permitted landfills which require long term aftercare. Landcare fully assessed the needs of the site for the future and agreed to take full responsibility. Bespoked legal agreements were emplaced, including environmental insurance, and the site and responsibility transferred fully in June 2012.

Landcare is working closely with Copeland Borough Council and other stakeholders to ascertain future development prospects for the site. Much of the site will not be developed, simply requiring care and maintenance going forward, with restoration, which will see over two thirds of the site opened up for public access. With an aspect looking out over the Irish Sea and Whitehaven harbour, improved public access along with linkages to the Cumbrian Coastal Path, will provide a future legacy of enjoyment for local residents and tourists alike over what was formerly a heavily intensified industrial site.</p>

A proportion of the site has realistic development prospects linking in with the existing settlement of Kells to provide additional housing, small scale retail, tourism and leisure and low density commercial space being the identified potential development mix. What is certain, is that this site now has a secure future and one which will eventually see removal of fencing and locked gates.

Landcare’s Ian Honeybill said “This site was a nationally important industrial site and our aim now is to manage and care for this site whilst creating something aspirational for the town for future generations to enjoy.”

Landcare is at the forefront of freehold land liability transfer in UK and Europe and was advised by Squire Sanders.

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