Close up Satellite view of Hillhouse Enterprise Zone

Hillhouse Enterprise Zone

Hillhouse Enterprise Zone (EZ) is the site of the former ICI plant and salt works at Thornton, on the banks of the River Wyre.

In 2003 the site was acquired by NPL Estates. NPL manage the site, the security and infrastructure. They have also carried out land remediation and support development of the site with a 25 year plan.

The EZ is Launched

Hillhouse International Enterprise Zone in Thornton Cleveleys was officially launched on 1 April 2016.

Satellite view of Hillhouse Enterprise Zone
Satellite view of Hillhouse Enterprise Zone

The Hillhouse Technology Enterprise Zone is a 138 hectare industrial and employment site, occupied by more than 40 companies.

  • It’s the world headquarters of Victrex PLC who make polymers,
  • AGC Chemicals Europe Ltd – makes fluorochemicals and fluoropolymers,
  • Addison Engineering
  • Vinnolit – which manufactures PVC

This video is interesting – see just how big the site is, how much goes on there and how it nestles against the River Wyre. Meet some of the businesses and find out what they do.

What is an Enterprise Zone?

Enterprise Zone status gives businesses many opportunities for development.

There are numerous financial and practical advantages, like simplified planning rules and reduced business rates. Infrastructure is also in place to locate and run a business. For example, easy transport links, superfast broadband and a skilled local workforce.

History of the Hillhouse Enterprise Zone Site

In 1890 our Victorian ancestors founded the Fleetwood Salt Company. They had previously discovered millions of tons of rock salt at Preesall and Stalmine, under the countryside Over Wyre.

In 1890, Fleetwood Salt Company was taken over by the United Alkali Company.

Both sides of the River Wyre saw development during those days of the Industrial Revolution. Thornton and Fleetwood became especially busy.

Formation of ICI

In 1926 Imperial Chemical Industries – known as ICI was formed. Operating chemical sites all around the world the British company became a huge business. For a long time it was the largest manufacturer in Britain.

Wartime in the early twentieth century saw the production of chlorine gas at Thornton. At one point, almost 90,000 tons of chlorine a year were made at Hillhouse.

Did you know? There’s a War Memorial dedicated to ICI employees who lost their lives in both World Wars? You can find it near the Cenotaph at Four Lane Ends.

From 1941 the assets of Hillhouse and Burn Hall Works in Thornton began to be acquired from the Ministry of Supply by ICI general Chemical Divisions. The industry around the banks of the River at Thornton and Fleetwood all eventually became part of ICI.

Self Contained Site

A few years later, in 1953, the ICI site had its own power station, to provide electricity and steam to run the by now massive operations. The chimney to the old power station was demolished on 7 November 2009.

The growth of the chemical industries at Thornton stimulated the urbanisation of the surrounding area. People came to live at Thornton, Cleveleys, Fleetwood and Poulton in order to get work at the site.

Did you know? Tamoxifen was developed in 1978 by ICI pharmaceuticals – a drug frequently used to prevent recurrent of breast cancer.

The now closed railway line from Poulton to Burn Naze was opened to serve the works. That’s the one being restored by Poulton and Wyre Railway Society.

Platform restored by PWRS at Burn Naze
Platform restored by PWRS at Burn Naze

Did you know? In the 1950’s ICI developed the fabric known as Crimplene. Very popular back in the day it’s not a popular fashion fabric today!

The Decline of ICI

British chemical manufacturing suffered in the 1990s.

  • In 1992 the chlorine plant was closed.
  • A new polyurethane plant was built in Holland and work transferred there in the mid 90’s from the ageing Thornton plant.
  • The chemicals side of the Hillhouse site was taken over in 1999 by Ashai Glass – a Japanese investor.
  • Fluon production was the last of the ICI plants at Hillhouse and that was sold in 1999.

In 2008 ICI was acquired by AkzoNobel, which sold parts of it to Henkel and integrated the rest of ICI within its own organisation after 82 years of British manufacturing.

Interested in the detailed history of ICI and the products it invented and made? The Wikipedia page about it is well worth a read.

Hillhouse Enterprise Zone Connected to Offshore Wind

In 2011 Danish firm DONG Energy (now called Orsted) connected the new Walney Wind farm 2 to the National Grid via a new substation at Hillhouse.

Visit Cleveleys was involved throughout the onshore side of the project, documenting it online.

Electricity substation for Walney Offshore Windfarm 2 at Hillhouse Enterprise Zone
Electricity substation for Walney Offshore Windfarm 2 at Hillhouse Enterprise Zone

Anything to Add?

We’re sure that there’s a lot more information to add to this page. Add your memories and knowledge to the article by leaving a comment below.

If you’ve got any photographs that you’d like us to add, just email them to jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk. Full credit will be given.

Milestone for Wyre Power at Hillhouse Enterprise Zone

On 28 November 2016 a Chinese delegation has visited Hillhouse International Enterprise Zone (EZ) in Thornton Cleveleys in a bid to create a power station that could bring £800m investment to the site.

Representatives from two Chinese power corporations also met Government officials to discuss the proposal, which is one of the first major developments since EZ status was attained.

Chinese delegation meet Wyre Council and NPL
Chinese delegation meet Wyre Council and NPL Group at the Civic Centre

Wyre Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NPL Group which is promoting and developing a large gas fired power station at Hillhouse, also owned by NPL Group, within the Northern Powerhouse region.

This national infrastructure project will produce up to 900MW of electricity sufficient to power some 750,000 homes and could create over 1,000 jobs in construction and associated industries. It will be located adjacent to key National Grid infrastructure at the site.

Chairman of NPL Group says –

Robert McFarlane, Chairman of NPL Group, was therefore delighted to invite the vice presidents and senior teams from China Power Engineering Consulting Group Corporation Ltd (CPECC) and China National Electric Engineering Co Ltd (CNEEC) on a tour of Hillhouse and the Fylde Coast.

He said: “I’m delighted we are working towards reaching an agreement with China Power (CPECC) and CNEEC. We all hope it will bring significant inward investment to the area. Our visitors were delighted with the partnership approach between NPL and Wyre Council. It’s already transforming the Hillhouse site.”

The visit was well received and culminated in a lunch hosted by Wyre Council at the Civic Centre in Poulton.

Vice President of China Power Engineering Consulting Group Corporation Ltd says –

Xue Danfeng, Vice President of China Power Engineering Consulting Group Corporation Ltd (CPECC), said: “This is our first time in the UK and our first chance to get to know the UK energy market. I would like to thank the Government officials and all those who have welcomed us. This is a good sign for us because Government support gives us the confidence to invest in the UK.

“Our new leader, President Xi Jinping, has announced a new policy regarding China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project. We need to follow this policy. Therefore we wish to step out from China and invest in the UK power market.

Hillhouse is one of four enterprise zones in Lancashire which combine to provide a world class offer to investors and occupiers. The other sites at Samlesbury, Warton and Blackpool Airport offer support to the advanced manufacturing, energy and engineering sectors.

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