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Local firm will bring 200-year history to Whitehaven’s boldest modern development

22nd May 2019: Thomas Armstrong have been appointed as lead contractor to BEC’s North Shore Buzz Station & Watershed sites following a competitive tender.

Thomas Armstrong will lead an internal and external team of skilled craftspeople to turn the derelict site into Cumbria’s premier creative and digital hub with supporting 24-hour access business incubator.

The Buzz Station is a £4.1m scheme that will act as a hothouse for tech, digital, media, and creative firms with supporting artisan eatery. Sellafield Ltd and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are investing £2.6m to assist the conversion. Last week a £1.1m extension to the plans was announced in the form of the Watershed with £996k of support from Sellafield Ltd and the NDA. The extension will give Whitehaven a business incubator to rival the UK’s biggest cities and house a digital suite and co-located business support functions.

Welcoming the new contract: David Atkinson – Managing Director, Thomas Armstrong. Tracey West – Social Impact Team, Sellafield Ltd. Mike Starkie – Elected Mayor of Copeland.

Showcasing the creative & digital skills of the Buzz station and Watershed:  L-R: Liam Millar – BEC.   Adam Phillips – Community and Energy Officer, BEC. Craig Lowery – Director of Operations, Osprey Management Group (lead catering partner for the Buzz Station). 

Thomas Armstrong was founded almost 200 years ago in Cockermouth and has been a valuable local employer since its inception.

David Atkinson, Managing Director of Thomas Armstrong commented: “It’s a huge privilege to be appointed as the Main Contractor, to construct the prestigious Buzz Station Project for BEC in the former bus station in Whitehaven. As a locally based company, we are very excited to be part of the team to commence the first of the works on the North Shore of Whitehaven. We are fully committed to delivering this low carbon building that will create a huge economic and social impact to Whitehaven.”

Commenting on the appointment, BEC CEO, Michael Pemberton, said: “We are thrilled to see construction commence on the site this month. We have chosen our lead contractor very carefully in line with our values and commitment to developing a zero net carbon scheme in Whitehaven. We congratulate Thomas Armstrong on its appointment and look forward to seeing our plans come to life under their careful watch.”

The site will build in pioneering low carbon technologies as part of the development and include future proof systems that can connect the site to a planned zero carbon energy hub as the North Shore site grows. It will support pre-start companies, those in the very early phase of development and those looking to grow together with innovation teams of larger firms.

As part of the procurement process BEC have taken the decision to build the Buzz Station and the Watershed together. BEC’s Head of Property and development, Rob Miller commented: “Construction will commence at the site in Whitehaven this month and be completed within a year. Building both concepts side-by-side instead of two separate build projects will mean less disruption and crucially – reduce carbon emissions.”

Gary McKeating, head of community and development for Sellafield Ltd, said: “The Watershed is a potentially transformative project for west Cumbria. It will be fascinating to see the building taking shape over the coming months. To grow and diversify our local economy we need to create the conditions for small businesses to thrive. The Watershed will provide this by focusing support on people at the crucial early stages. This is what our social impact strategy is all about: creating opportunities that change lives.”

Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, said: “I welcome the appointment of a lead contractor, which is an important milestone in the development of the Buzz Station and Watershed project. Copeland Borough Council and I have supported this project since the outset, and the social and economic benefits it will bring to Whitehaven and the wider community are significant. We look forward to seeing construction begin and these exciting plans come to fruition.”