Planning approved for world-leading “underground observatory” at Cheshire site

Ince Marshes will be home to the British Geological Survey’s UK Geoenergy Observatory

July 04, 2019

JLL has successfully assisted the British Geological Survey (BGS) in landing planning approval from Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWACC) to develop the UK Geonergy Observatory at Ince Marshes, Cheshire. 

The decision will see some 50 boreholes drilled down to a depth of 1200 m around a 12 km2 area – enabling scientists to gain a clearer picture than ever before of the underground environment.

The boreholes will be installed with £2.5 million worth of scientific sensors, which will observe in unprecedented detail how the underground system works. 

The sensors will generate millions of terabytes of data on the chemical, physical and biological properties of the rocks over a 15-year period, providing the nation with the knowledge it needs to unlock new clean, green, low-carbon energy technologies.

Mike Hopkins, Planning Director at JLL, said: ‘The proposal is an opportunity for Cheshire to provide a game-changing research facility, which will help to underpin future policy making and inform decisions on future energy mix in the UK.

‘JLL is delighted to have assisted in this groundbreaking project, which ties in nicely with our own mission to “Build A Better Tomorrow” and assisting in the transition to a low carbon economy.

‘The application proposals are  complex and local concerns raised during the process were largely satisfied  we’re pleased that this important facility can now be brought to life.’

The global property consultancy worked alongside Ramboll to manage the planning application.

The boreholes will contain a network of  seismic sensors that can measure earth tremors 1000 weaker than a human can feel – with the capability, in essence, to detect earthquakes in advance from across the planet. 

Thousands of water samples will be taken over the next 15 years below the surface. All the data from the observatory will be made free and open via a publicly owned website. 

The UK Geoenergy Observatory at Ince Marshes will make Cheshire home to the best-characterised rock mass in the world, providing a world-class environmental baseline for the geological environment.

The Cheshire site will be one of two observatories in the UK. The other is being drilled in Glasgow and comprises 12 boreholes over a 4 km2 area. 

JLL Glasgow Planning Team also advised on the Glasgow observatory which was granted permission in 2018; this will allow the UK’s earth science community to assess whether warm water within the UK’s disused mine workings can generate a geothermal heat source that could become a sustainable part of the energy mix. 

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has commissioned the £31 million UK Geoenergy Observatories to keep the UK at the cutting edge of geoscience and energy innovation and to provide the important knowledge needed to move the UK towards a low-carbon economy. The BGS, the UK’s principal provider of impartial geological evidence since 1835, will operate the observatories on behalf of the whole of the UK and the geoscience community. 

Prof Mike Stephenson, chief scientist at the BGS, explained: ’The UK Geoenergy Observatory in Cheshire will be a world first in its ability to observe the underground environment so closely and consistently. What we learn in Cheshire should provide a breakthrough in our understanding of how the whole underground system works.’

‘Second by second, minute by minute, day by day, we’ll be measuring the pulse of the Earth in a way that the scientific community simply hasn’t been able to do until now.

About JLL

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Our vision is to reimagine the world of real estate, creating rewarding opportunities and amazing spaces where people can achieve their ambitions. In doing so, we will build a better tomorrow for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $16.3 billion, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of over 91,000 as of March 31, 2019. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated.