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Jodrell Bank Observatory welcomes UK Government Space Adviser on fact finding trip

THE University of Manchester's policy engagement, Policy@Manchester, has hosted a visit to Jodrell Bank Observatory for a leading Parliamentarian with a special interest in its work.

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris was appointed as the 1st ever UK Government Space Adviser in 2022, effectively trade envoy to the national space industry.

He was met by Professor Keith Grainge and Professor Simon Garrington, Associate Directors of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester, for a tour beginning at the iconic Lovell Telescope.

With its 76 metre diameter reflecting surface, it has stood over the Cheshire plain since 1957. The telescope has been upgraded several times and remains one of the biggest and most powerful radio telescopes in the world, spending most of its time investigating cosmic phenomena which were undreamed of when it was conceived.

Mr Morris moved on to the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) where he was given a demonstration of low frequency antennas by Dr Simon Berry, head of the SKAO.Director General's Office. The SKAO is the world's newest intergovernmental organisation created with the objective of constructing and operating radio telescopes in Australia and South Africa.

In addition to enabling transformative science, SKAO's mission focuses on ensuring the maximum possible societal impact and engagement with the communities in which it will operate. Dr Berry's team is responsible for the SKAO's external and international relations activities, governance, strategic engagement and external communications.

The final stop on the visit was the 1st Light Pavilion under the guidance of Teresa Anderson MBE, Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement.

The 1st Light Pavilion is at the heart of a £21.5 million project to open up the heritage of Jodrell Bank to many more people. Audiences can see fascinating archive materials brought together for the first time; including:- audio, film, diaries, letters, plans and photographs; in innovative digital displays and projections.

Professor Keith Grainge said:- "It was terrific to welcome David to the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, the astronomical research centre of The University of Manchester. Our colleague Anna Scaife recently gave evidence to the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Select Committee inquiry on UK astronomy where she rightly described Jodrell Bank; a UNESCO world heritage site for science and home to e-MERLIN, the UK's national radio astronomy facility; as an iconic place. It is also home to the Bluedot festival, which celebrates science as part of culture and is instrumental in reaching those harder to reach audiences for science. David is fully engaged in what we do, and it was useful to exchange views and perspectives with him on our current and future activities."

David Morris MP said:- "In my role as UK Government Space Adviser, I take a keen interest in the ongoing work at Jodrell Bank which I last visited in 2022. The commitment of The University of Manchester to astronomy and space research is well known. Indeed, the recommendations from its academics on areas such as international collaboration, space psychology and sustainable resources; as set out in Policy@Manchester's publication On Space; remain at the heart of policy discussions in Whitehall and Westminster. I welcome the opportunity to tap into the latest thinking from the experts I met and look forward to returning to Jodrell Bank very soon."

LCR Freeport development set to create 500 jobs

THE Liverpool City Region (LCR) Freeport is set to create 500 full time jobs at a massive new logistics facility to be developed at 3MG in Widnes.

The development, on 1 of the Freeport's three tax sites, could also enable Halton Council to retain £2m in business rates every year for 20 years, ringfenced for investment in regeneration projects in the borough, once the development is completed and fully tenanted.

KKR and Mirastar have entered into a forward funding agreement to speculatively develop the logistics building, known as XDock, at the 3MG site.

The 500 jobs will be available at all levels from managerial to shop floor and will come on-stream from mid-2025. Through the planned LCR Freeport Skills Academy, the Freeport team, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and local education providers will work to ensure local people have the skills needed to benefit from the employment opportunities.

The XDock building announcement comes after the completion in late 2022 of the Viking Building, also at the 3MG site, which is a 200,000 square foot logistics warehouse.

Once fully operational, it is estimated the LCR Freeport as a whole could create more than 14,000 new highly skilled jobs, delivering £800m of investment and generating an additional £850m of GVA for the Liverpool City Region's economy.

The XDock building will be strategically located for both Regional and national distribution with immediate access to the national motorway network via the:- M62, M57, M6 and M56 motorways.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:- "Being a member of the Liverpool City Region means that Halton can reap the benefits of devolved, local leadership; capturing opportunities that may previously have been out of reach. This is a prime example of how strategic decision is helping us to reinvigorate our economy and, most importantly, change our residents' lives for the better. The LCR Freeport is already proving it has the potential to attract investment and create more well-paid, highly skilled jobs for local people, however, I have always been clear that I only want to use our status as a force for good. I want to attract investors who believe in our local ambitions and will work with us to protect workers' rights and uphold standards and who, most importantly, will support areas in our community that need it most. This approach means that we are already starting to see tangible, positive results for local people – this is the difference devolution makes."

In developing the Freeport, the Region's leaders have chosen to pursue businesses and industries that align with the values and priorities of the Combined Authority. These include innovation in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and green energy; with a particular focus on the Region's target to be net zero carbon by 2040 at the latest.

By grouping high productivity and innovative businesses close together, the Freeport can play a role in the Region's work to tackle underlying weaknesses in the local job market such as:- productivity, pay and job security.

Ekaterina Avdonina, CEO and co-founder at Mirastar, KKR Real Estate's industrial and logistics platform in Europe, said:- "KKR and Mirastar remain acquisitive for best in class developments and funding projects across our key high-conviction markets. In this challenging environment, it is a testament to the team to be able to get such a large deal over the line. We remain committed to the UK logistics and industrial sector and are excited to partner with the team at Marshall CDP on this project."

The c.550,000 sqft XDock building will be developed to a best in class specification, targeting a BREEAM Excellent certification, EPC A rating and will benefit from double sided loading. Situated in the Liverpool Freeport Zone, XDock benefits from both Freeport Customs and Tax Status, which could provide significant cost savings to qualifying occupiers.

Tom O'Brien, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Freeport board, said:- "This new development is a significant demonstration of the private sector's confidence in the City Region's economy and is a real example of inclusive growth in action. Here we have an initiative that could create 500 good quality jobs, at all levels, giving real opportunities to local people and a shot in the arm for the local economy. And it will help Halton Borough Council's continuing investment in regeneration projects that will make the area an even more attractive place to live, work and visit."

Cllr Paul Stuart, Portfolio Holder for the Liverpool City Region Freeport, said:- "This is an exciting development, demonstrating how the Freeport can be instrumental in driving growth across the Liverpool City Region while creating good-quality jobs for local people. We're committed to ensuring that our Freeport status brings positive outcomes, attracting inward investment in the City Region, increasing productivity, pay and job security."

Cllr Mike Wharton, Leader of Halton Council and Liverpool City Region Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Business, said:- "This development is tremendous news for Halton and the wider City Region. It will bring investment and jobs to Halton and the wider City Region, through the 500 direct jobs on the site, and through its construction and the wider supply chain. But more than that, the £2m in business rates that we could retain every year for the next 20 years would give us a lot of options in terms of deciding for ourselves, at a local level, how to spend that money to drive regeneration and improve the lives of the people of Halton."

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