Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

For sale: six bedroom period farmhouse... in an industrial estate

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An aerial view of Hunts Copse FarmhouseThey say the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a property are location, location, location.

So the sale of a six-bedroom period farmhouse in Swindon will raise a few eyebrows... it's in the middle of a trading estate.

Hunts Copse Farm at South Marston – parts of which date back to around 1700 – was once the hub of a 370 acre farm.

At the advent of World War Two the Ministry of Aircraft Production built a factory and airstrip nearby, and the industrialisation of the area continued throughout the 20th century, notably with the arrival Honda's UK manufacturing plant in 1985.

More recently, B&Q built its national distribution centre – the size of twenty football pitches – nearby.

Today, the grounds of Hunts Copse Farm extend to a little over two acres. Yet estate agents Moore Allen & Innocent, of Cirencester, are expecting considerable interest in the property – which will go under the hammer on site at 2.30pm on Thursday, August 15 with a guide price of £395,000 – not least because of its versatility.

The Grade II listed farmhouse was converted into offices in 1990. But there is existing planning consent to convert the property into a boutique hotel and restaurant, while an application currently going through the planning process is likely to see permission granted to turn the property back into a residential dwelling.

The L-shaped property occupies a space in South Marston Industrial Estate surrounded by sympathetically styled modern office units , and is well away from the light industrial and warehouse units at the entrance of the park.

A five bar gate gives way to a gravel drive with ample parking and a large entranceway between two staddle stones.

Inside, a wood-panelled entrance hall with flagstone floors leads to three large reception rooms – one designated as a reception and bar with adjoining men's and women's washrooms, and a fine dining room with dual aspect windows and period fireplace.

Hunts Copse Farmhouse exteriorOn the first floor are six bedrooms, including a well-proportioned master bedroom with large sash windows and period fireplace. On the second floor is an attic.

In total, the property provides a living space of around 400 square metres, with period features including flagstones floors, fireplaces and exposed beams throughout the property.

The farmhouse sits in around an acre of landscaped gardens proportional to its size and character, and including a small orchard with apple and cherry trees and fruit bushes.

Adjoining the gardens is a further acre of land enclosing a lake, which will be auctioned as a separate lot.

Andrew Stibbard, commercial surveyor at Moore Allen & Innocent, said: “It's surprisingly quiet here on a weekday, and at the weekend you'd have the place to yourself.

“I can see this property appealing to a small business looking for office accommodation in an historic building with interesting features, or a hotelier, but equally I can see the appeal to a large family that requires lots of rooms and space, both indoors and out.

“In a village setting this farmhouse would set you back £1.5 million plus. Where else are you going to pick up a period six-bedroom period house for £395,000?”

Viewing events have been scheduled for Tuesdays July 23 and 30, and August 6 and 13 between 4pm and 5.30pm. For more information, or to arrange a viewing, call Moore Allen & Innocent on 01285 648104.

Social Media Session explores apps, and all that jazz

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Marcus Lilley of FutrSocialTurning your smartphone into a mobile studio is the topic of the next Marlborough Social Media Session.

Social media expert Marcus Lilley, of FutrSocial, will be showing businesses and organisations how to use mobile apps like Vine, Instagram, AudioBoo, Path and Foursquare to promote their activities.

Marcus will also be reporting from this weekend's Marlborough Jazz Festival (July 19 to 21), where he will be documenting the entire festival through a single smartphone.

The session will be held at The Food Gallery, High Street, Marlborough from 6pm to 7pm on Tuesday, July 30. Attendance is free.

To book a place, log on to http://marlboroughsocialmediasession.eventbrite.co.uk To fully participate, delegates are asked to bring a wi-fi-enabled smartphone, tablet or laptop.  

Stuck in a hot office? Flexible working could save UK businesses £billions, claims report

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The Flex ReportWhile Wiltshire workers toil in sweltering offices this week, a new report suggests UK businesses could enjoy cost reductions and productivity gains running up to £8.1bn – or 0.5 percent of GDP – by optimising their approach to flexible working.

The Flex Factor, based on a national survey of 2,828 employees and employers, finds that employees estimate they could gain on average five productive hours per week - for instance from commuting - through better ways of working, which equates to around £4,200 per employee per year.

The survey, published by think tank the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and Vodafone, suggests better ways of working are a key driver of productivity, performance and organisational innovation as well as employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

While the majority (77 percent), of UK employees work in organisations that offer some kind of flexible working, more than one in ten who want to work flexibly aren’t being offered it, or don’t know they can ask for it.

Sixty four percent of those with experience of flexible working say it has enhanced their job satisfaction, suggesting that personal and performance benefits are linked.

Jeroen Hoencamp, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, said: "The traditional workplace is dead and British business needs to adopt a new mind-set.

“Flexible working isn't just working from home and these findings reveal that, with an optimised approach, businesses can overcome any downsides and greatly increase efficiency and productivity, as well as boost their bottom line."

Julian Thompson, director of enterprise at the RSA, said: "Our findings show that there is no one size fits all approach, and that there are costs to be considered. But enabling people to work flexibly can make a significant difference to our economic and social prosperity, both now and in the future.

"Our report aims to capture some of the value better ways of working can bring at all levels of the economy. It's got to be something that organisations and employees develop together as part of a strategy to increase the value of their work."

"Our findings show that there is no 'one size fits all' approach, and that there are costs to be considered. But enabling people to work flexibly can make a significant difference to our economic and social prosperity, both now and in the future."

The Flex Factor highlights some of the costs and downsides associated with flexible working, but also the real benefits, not just to the organisational bottom line, but also in terms of wider society and even the environment.

The research finds that flexible working is linked to better use of employee skills, innovation and personal productivity. By harnessing this potential our economy could become more competitive, innovative and effective.

Download the report at www.thersa.org/action-research-centre/enterprise-and-design/enterprise/work/the-flex-factor

Flood risks explored at Chamber event

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Property and construction experts will be invited to explore flood alleviation at a Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce event in Swindon.

The Business Leaders' Forum will hear from Sam Weller, head of civil protection at Swindon Borough Council, about an innovative project that could make risk of flooding could be a thing of the past in Swindon.

The Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder Scheme was launched by DEFRA in December 2012.

The intention is to develop a network of Community Flood Champions to work on educating people.

The pilot scheme will focus on the east Swindon area, and Sam will outline the scheme and its potential impact on the local region.

Meanwhile, Paul Dennis, associate director of Resource & Environmental Consultants Ltd will look at important messages around flood alleviation and what this means to businesses based in Swindon.

Threats, opportunities and ways for Swindon businesses to save money will be highlighted.

The informal discussion will take place over breakfast, giving Chamber members and representatives from other local organisations the opportunity to discuss such issues in a relaxed and professional environment.

The meeting will be held at Resource & Environmental Consultants Ltd, Shrivenham Hundred Business Park on Thursday, August 22 between 8.30am and 10.30am. Attendance is free.

For more information, or to book a place, log on to www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk/event/44838/

New summer ale creates a buzz

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Ramsbury Estates manager Alistair Ewing, mayor of Marlborough Guy Loosmore, mayoress Fiona Lawson, and Henry Oliver, director of North Wessex Downs AONBA new beer launched near Marlborough this week aims to help Wiltshire's ailing bee population.

Mayor of Marlborough Guy Loosmore pulled the first pint of HoneyBee Nectar at The Bell in at Ramsbury on Saturday.

The light, summery beer is produced by Ramsbury Brewery in association with North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with 20p for each pint or bottle sold aimed at conserving bees – especially bumblebees and their habitats.

In recent decades the bumblebee populations have dramatically declined partly due to the disappearance in some areas of 97 percent of the UK's flower-rich grasslands.

Henry Oliver, director of North Wessex Downs AONB, said: “This project will help towards our vision that our communities and countryside will once again be rich in bumblebees and colourful wild flowers, supporting a diversity of wildlife for everyone to enjoy.

“Many of our farmers and large landowners have embraced the need for wildflower planting, but there is much the ordinary individual can do – and we are very keen to develop an outreach programme with local primary schools.”

Lifting the lid on whistleblowing legislation

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Malcolm GregoryEmployers should be aware that there are developments to whistleblowing legislation which affect protected disclosures made on or after 25 June 2013.

Whistleblowing legislation offers protection to workers who disclose information about a dangerous or illegal activity or omission that has occurred.

1.  The disclosure must be in the public interest

A qualifying disclosure must, in the reasonable belief of the worker, be in the public interest. There is nothing in the legislation to define what the “public interest” means, however we expect this to cover something that affects a class of people and not just one individual. This change closes the loophole that existed previously where an employee could be protected when raising a complaint about a breach of his/her own employment contract, as this was technically a breach of a legal obligation.  Such complaints are no longer protected.

2.  Removal of the good faith requirement

The legislation now expands whistleblowing protection to those who make disclosures in bad faith. For example, employees who make disclosures for personal gain or out of spite, rather than to put right a wrongdoing, will be protected. However employees will still need to satisfy a tribunal that they reasonably believed the content of their disclosure to be true.  If a disclosure is made in bad faith, the tribunal will have the power to reduce compensation by up to 25 percent.

3.  Introduction of vicarious liability for employers

Employers are already vicariously liable for the actions of their employees under other employment legislation, such as the Equality Act. Whistleblowing has now been brought in line with this. Employees who subject their whistle-blowing colleagues to a detriment are still personally liable, but their employer will now also be vicariously liable for the employees’ actions. Employers will only have a defence if they took all reasonable steps to prevent the detrimental treatment.

4.  Change to the meaning of a “worker”

The definition of “worker” has now been amended (for the purpose of whistleblowing only) to cover certain NHS workers who previously fell outside of the definition.

Please contact a member of our employment law team if you have any queries on this or would like some assistance reviewing and/or amending your whistleblowing policy.

Teamwork and leadership are focus of workshop

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The Manufacturing Advisory Service is to hold a skills workshop in Wiltshire, with a focus on teamwork and leadership.

The course provides an introduction for Business Leaders and Managers to the requirements needed to understand how teams develop and their role in leading the team. 

Senior management need to understand how effective teams operate and they also require an understanding of individual's skills/contributions, drives, style and where to focus priorities.

The event takes place at 9.30am until 12.30pm on Wednesday, August 7 at the Marsh Farm Hotel in Royal Wootton Bassett.

The workshop is free to attend for delegates from SME's, whilst the rate is £100 + VAT for LE's. For details log on to www.masevents.org/event/Events.php?EventId=1454

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