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Shell store development to create a business incubation and innovation centre

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Shell store development to create a business incubation and innovation centre.


Former munitions site to be transformed into a flagship business incubation and innovation centre

Work is to begin on a £7.3m redevelopment of Hereford’s Shell Store in January, transforming the historic building into a flagship business incubation and innovation centre.

The redevelopment of the derelict building on Skylon Park, at Rotherwas, will create more than 2,000 sq metres of employment space, with room for new and growing businesses to set up and expand alongside facilities for development and innovation, presently earmarked for the new NMiTE University.

This week saw the final funding agreements put into place to support the project at the former munitions site on the Hereford Enterprise Zone. The project is being funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Herefordshire Council and a loan from the Marches LEP’s Marches Investment Fund.


The Shell Store, which is not a listed building, was built in the First World War and used again as an ordnance site during the Second World War. The project will see commercial space created within the existing building footprint, retaining much of the original factory including its steel roof structure. 

The incubation centre will provide high quality accommodation and support services to new or young enterprises as well as an application and development centre for the new Herefordshires university, NMiTE. This will create an interface between the new university and businesses as well as providing space for students to develop their practical projects.

Chairman of the Hereford Enterprise Zone, Andrew Manning Cox, said the redevelopment is a major milestone for Skylon Park.


“The project will provide employment space for approximately 25 businesses when the centre is fully occupied. The intention is that as businesses in the centre grow, they will take larger units as their needs for space and employment requirements increase. Eventually businesses will be of a size where they need to move out of the centre, releasing space for the next generation of businesses and creating a ready source of demand for employment units within the Zone.

“And by 2023, it is anticipated that at least 28 businesses will either be located in the incubator or have “graduated” from the centre and have generated around 128 new jobs.

“That figure is expected to rise to approximately 466 by 2031.There is a proven demand for high quality start up or grow on business space to rent in the area and Skylon Park is the perfect place for it.”

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership is providing a £2.498m interest free loan for the work with £2m being contributed by the ERDF and Herefordshire Council is investing the balance.

Graham Wynn, chairman of the Marches LEP, said the project demonstrated the LEP’s commitment to delivering modern, sustainable jobs to the region and helping build a thriving economy.


“The Marches Investment Fund is specifically designed to inject funding into schemes which can help bring economic growth and prosperity to the region, and the Shell Store project will do just that. If we are to maintain our proven track record of growth it is vital we encourage and nurture enterprising young businesses.”

Councillor Harry Bramer, Herefordshire Council Cabinet Member for Contracts and Assets, said:


"This is a tremendously exciting and important scheme to breathe new life back into the Shell Store, which has played such a significant role in the history of Hereford.

"The new incubation and research centre will provide a home for dynamic and innovative enterprises, driving economic growth in the county through the delivery of more jobs."

The centre is due to be completed in early 2020 and initial preparatory work has already begun and will continue over the coming weeks.

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"The Shell Store is not a Listed building." Quite correct, though Mr Manning Cox might have given it its correct title: "Shell Filling Store", since it was here that shells were hand-filled rather than stored. This next bit is probably apocryphal, but nevertheless worth a fresh outing. It seems that a group of Sir Humphreys up in Whitehall got to hear of the perilously fragile state of the old Shell Filling Store. An internal memo was duly sent to the Sir Humphrey in charge of listing significant historic buildings, who dispatched one of his minions down to Rotherwas. Sadly, said minion came armed with an inaccurate OS reference for the huge building; instead, wandering into some scrubland immediately to the east of the Shell Filling Store, where he happened upon an insignificant cluster of brick-built sheds, which a local farmer was keeping chickens in. This was the Picric Acid store, located away from the main Rotherwas munitions complex because of the acid's volatility. The minion duly listed the chicken coop!

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I passed the muntions factory today to see that the boiler shed had been demolished to the East of the building, although planning permission had been sort for the removal of this building, it was only supported by a very poor application of two vauge ariel photographs which does not even highlight the building to be demolished within the area of land owned (I digress). https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/info/200142/planning_services/planning_application_search/details?id=182573&search=P182573/PA7 The council determined that prior approval was not required for the demolition of this building. (oppertunity was supposed to be given to local enthusiasts to record the building, I am unsure if this was carried out)

It is now my worry that the munitions factory is going to go the same way, on my passing today it appears that demolition works have begun, with parts of the structure recenly removed. There does not appear to be any planning application on the system for the works to this building. It is very concerning that this building was not picked up for listing, being one of the key industrial heritage buildings in Herefordshire, especially given its unique storey within the war and its impressive open span architecture, which was cutting edge engineering at its time. I understand why the Pitric Acid building was listed to the North East but in the listing to the site there are references to the historical importance of the site and the munitions filling store. It was listed in 2010 here is the link if it is of interest. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1393937

It would be interesting to hear others thoughts on the matter.

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Judging by the dates on the application the council does not appear to have wasted any time in getting this done. The application submitted on the 6th July 2018 and the works to be completed by 20th August 2018.

Taken from planning application:

Application received 6th July 2018

5. Proposed Demolition Works
Please describe the building(s) to be demolished:

Derelict brick building adjacent to shell store building on North Magazine site. Previously used to house boiler, but now redundant and disused. 165 sqm approx.

Please state why demolition needs to take place:
Shell store is subject to £7m redevelopment proposal. Project architects Quattro civil engineers Caulmert deem boiler housed to be in poor condition. roof deteriorating and of no intrinsic value. Building prevents landscaping works in the area.

Please describe the proposed method of demolition:
Building will be soft stripped including removal of ACM roof covering (pre-demolition asbestos survey already undertaken). Building to be then taken down using excavator from top down as to not to cause any unsafe structure issues.

Please provide details of the proposed restoration of the site:
Once super structure is down we will excavate out the sub structure and oversite. Area will be levelled and visual pick of any ACM removed.

Please state the expected date of commencement of works: 16/07/2018

Please state the expected date of completion of works: 20/07/2018

Are there any public rights of way within the site or immediately adjoining the site? No.
Is redevelopment or rebuilding proposed at a later date? No.
Does the proposal involve the felling or pruning of any tree(s). No.

Describe how and where spoil/rubble would be disposed:
Spoil will be incorporated elsewhere on site.

Boiler House The North Magazine Hereford Enterprise Zone Hereford

The Picric Acid Expense Store

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Frankly it is shameful that all of the remaining Munitions Factory buildings have not been Listed. I cannot understand the decision making of Historic England on this. They List the Picric Acid store (well only one of them) and ignore the other equally significant buildings/structures. The whole site should be designated as an Ancient Monument, as has the former Munitions Factory site in Leeds, or all the remaining buildings Listed asap. We have or about to lose the old guardhouse (bungalow) and last remaining below ground air raid shelter on the Straight Mile, a couple of the north facing stores have recently gone and the Council are selling some of the former Nissan huts for redevelopment. The loss of the boiler house is just silly - all it needed was a new roof and it could accommodate a business.

The work to the Shell Store may well in principle keep the building but once the structural engineers have got to it and it has been "refurbished" and subdivided internally then all we will be left with of a fantastic structure is memories. Having spouted this if it was my Building I am not sure what I would do with it!

OK the factory complex may not be as "trendy" and the other historic attractions we have but once you delve into the history of the site you can only be impressed at the major role it and the thousands of workers (many of whom died or were injured) played in the defence of this country. 

Of course the Council and the EZ Board would just be happy if these old buildings were gone and more of their tin sheds could be built

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As far as I know they are two picric acid stores. Both unlisted but very similar to the one to the west which is listed? They are both in better condition than the listed one. All three are on land as far as I know owned by the Goodwin family.

This is a very old photo and almost all of the trees have been cleared. 

I am happy to provide a (unofficial) tour of the site

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An unofficial tour may be a good idea, if not only to provide historic documentation (photographic) of what the buildings are like at this time.

It appears there may have been a directive from the Hereford Council in 2014 deciding that the site should be used for a visitor centre. Well, as long as it was not going to cost them too much money! http://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?Id=2670

Here is a map (from historic maps online) from the 1970s, it shows the store and its associated building in some detail.


Munitions Factory Map 1974.Jpg

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The surviving blast walls which AV refers to are perhaps the most poignant reminders of what went on at Rotherwas and of the minimal safety conditions there. Many of the ancillary operations connected with the munitions output (such as the preparation of fuses and detonators) were, in fact, performed in flimsy timber sheds - not unlike cricket pavilions - by small gangs of women, wearing virtually no safety equipment whatsoever. Hard hats? Don't make me laugh - contemporary site photos shows the headgear worn as not dissimilar to a maid's cap. So what was the purpose of these blast walls (huge 3m-high vertical slabs of reinforced concrete flanking all the sheds? If there was an accident and an explosion, only one gang of women workers would get blown to smithereens!  

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