GROUND was broken at the site of Rotherwas' former munitions works today as the site's redevelopment project begins.

County councillors and business leaders gathered in front of the iconic buildings to take part in a ceremony to mark the beginning of works on the £7.3 million transformation of Hereford's historic Shell Store.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Herefordshire Council and a loan from the Marches Local Enterprise Project, the redevelopment aims to transform the local landmark site into a "flagship business incubation and innovation centre."

Due for completion in spring 2020, the development will provide more than 2,000 square metres of employment space, with room for new and growing enterprises to set up and expand alongside facilities for development and innovation.

It will also create the opportunity for Hereford's university, NMiTE, to interact with businesses.

The Shell Store development will provide employment space for up to 25 businesses, which Herefordshire Council said will drive economic growth through the generation of around 128 new jobs by 2023, rising to more than 450 by 2031.

Councillor Harry Bramer, Herefordshire Council Cabinet member for contracts and assets said: "I am delighted to see work begin on site at the Shell Store, which I am confident will add great value not only to our regional economy but also to the flourishing Hereford Enterprise Zone.

"The scheme will create a bustling hub of ideas and innovation, home to new and growing businesses, and help to develop sector-leading skills and expertise in the students of the new NMiTE, who will be the business, engineering and technological leaders of the future."

Andrew Manning Cox, Chairman of the Hereford Enterprise Zone said: "The transformation of the Shell Store will create exactly the sort of high-quality start-up and grow-on space which Hereford so urgently needs and for which there is a proven demand.

"New, innovative and growing enterprises will benefit from being part of Skylon Park’s thriving business community and its national reputation for excellence in cyber and defence technologies.”