Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Business booms as sun shines on Britain, says FSB

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As the UK experiences a second week of sun, Federation of Small Businesses members continue to report big improvements in trade.

This, says the organisation, is welcome news after the effect on business of the extended period of cold in the first half of the year.

FSB research from earlier this year found that more than half (55%) of UK small firms were impacted financially by the prolonged cold snap costing each business £1,580 in lost earnings.

Mike Cherry, national policy chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "It's great that the warm weather is continuing to provide a boost to small businesses up and down the country, especially considering how long businesses had to suffer from the cold this year."

Police commissioner invites Swindon businesses to share crime experiences

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Angus MacphersonWiltshire’s police commissioner Angus Macpherson was at Swindon Chamber of Commerce this morning (Friday) to identify the type of crimes suffered by the Swindon business community, and the effect crime as on business in the town.

Mr Macpherson told networkers that they – and other Swindon businesses – could share their experiences of crime and policing by taking part in an online survey.

But respondents have to be quick: the survey – which can be found at www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk/Feedback/Business-Crime-Survey.aspx – closes at midnight on Sunday (July 14).

The findings of the survey will be presented at a free half-day business crime forum, hosted by the commissioner, from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Friday, September 6 at the Corn Exchange, Devizes.

The forum will also provide an opportunity for delegates to hear how they may prevent their business from becoming victim to a wide range of fraud.

To book a place, log on to www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk

Six years after purge, A boards ban is officially lifted

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A boards at the entrance to Hughenden Yard, whose traders were not affected by strict highways regulationsSix years after a purge on A boards left Marlborough traders fuming – and out of pocket – Wiltshire Council has officially relaxed its stance on street furniture.

And a leading councillor has admitted that “ Over-burdening local business with a bureaucratic unnecessary process is not the right thing to do.”

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce was forced to come to the rescue of independent shopkeepers in 2007, following a purge by Wiltshire Highways. 

The highways department wrote to 19 traders who had erected A boards in Marlborough High Street, citing health and safety concerns.

A boards owned by 13 traders, who had not heeded the council notice, were subsequently confiscated.

Shopkeepers – many of whom were based in Kingsbury Street and The Parade – reported an immediate drop in footfall of between 25 and 40 percent.

And there was confusion over what constituted 'the highway', with traders from Hughenden Yard escaping the purge because their A boards were on private land. 

Following negotiations with the highways department and the town council, the Chamber of Commerce arranged for the installation of two large planters with bike racks and finger posts to the retail enclaves. 

Now, the council has reviewed and relaxed its regulations across the county.

Wiltshire councillors and officers decided to avoid regulations with the condition that anything businesses place on the highway is done in a sensible manner without creating a risk for other users of pavements and footpaths.

John Thomson, cabinet member with responsibility for highways and transport, said: “Over-burdening local business with a bureaucratic unnecessary process is not the right thing to do, and we want to make it as easy as possible for local businesses to do well in Wiltshire.

“We do however expect businesses to act responsibly and ensure that everyone, including those with disabilities, is able to use the footpaths and pavements safely and without risk.”

The news was welcomed by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce. President Paul Shimell, who owns Specsavers in High Street and uses two A boards to promote his business, said: "It's good to see that common sense has finally prevailed, and that traders can promote their businesses in a safe manner."

Traders are being encouraged to speak to council highways officers who can give guidance, advice and practical help to businesses wishing to promote their business in this way. The council’s highways enforcement team can be reached on 01225 713356.

Swindon to pilot economic growth scheme

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How the Locarno redevelopment will lookSwindon has been named as one of five areas to pilot a new public-private partnership to get infrastructure projects off the ground.

As part of the new Local Infrastructure Demonstrator Partnership, private sector professionals will work alongside government partners to identify and overcome problems which have been hindering infrastructure projects, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced this week. 

The specialist support offered through the partnership should lead to each project moving forward more quickly than would have been the case without support. 

The private sector led teams comprise representatives from the Civil Engineering Contractors Association and the Royal Town Planning Institute and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with other senior public and private sector partners also making significant contributions.

The Construction Industry Training Board is providing funding through its Growth Fund.

Business minister Michael Fallon said:
“Making improvements to local infrastructure and unblocking new developments are vital for growth, and having free industry advice and support on hand can help get projects off the ground.

“By bringing together the relevant experts face-to-face with the parties involved, solutions can often be found to problems and costly delays avoided. I would like to thank the private sector experts who are working on the projects on a pro bono basis.”

Phil Young, director of business investment at Forward Swindon said: "The partnership has supported Swindon Borough Council in bringing real clarity to its plans for growth.

“We are looking forward to working further with BIS and those involved to develop our plans and bring them to fruition delivering significant economic growth in Swindon. 

“In particular we are looking at ways to release development land along the A420, to enable economic growth in Swindon."

Meanwhile, a draft plan for the redevelopment of Swindon's iconic Corn Exchange building has been approved by planners.

A working group including a developer, architects, planners and heritage experts, was set up last year by Forward Swindon, on behalf of Swindon Borough Council, to collaborate together and create a viable mixed use scheme for the building, which is commonly known as the Locarno. 

The Old Town building was left derelict after a fire in 2004. The proposals will now go to public consultation for eight weeks.  

Public given chance to invest in new green energy business

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How Chelworth Solar Array will lookWiltshire residents are to be given the chance to invest in a new solar energy farm near Cricklade, a meeting of environmentally-aware business leaders was told this week.

Peter Andrews of Bath & West Community Energy told delegates at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Sustainability Forum that a community share issue would be launched next week, giving investors a stake in a 4,000-panel solar farm.

Bath & West Community Energy and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, delegates were told, have joined forces to form a new business called Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy specifically to develop, finance and operate community-owned renewable energy projects on sites owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. 

The first will be The Chelworth Solar Array on 2.5 hectares of low grade agricultural land at Chelworth Industrial Estate near Cricklade.

“The generation of power in this country is dominated by the Big Six,” said Peter Andrews, director of BWCE, which won the South West Green Energy Awards in 2012. “We want to put electricity generation into your hands.”

Mr Andrews told the Forum that the Chelworth Array – for which planning consent has already been granted – would be capable of generating a megawatt of electricity: enough to power 250 homes. 

“We want to appeal to people who want to invest their money ethically and get a financial return,” explained Mr Andrews. “We're looking at a return of nine percent, seven percent of which will go back to our members, while some of the surplus will be put back into local community projects.”

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy aims to raise £1.2 million to fund the project from a combination of loans and the issue of £1 shares, subject to a minimum investment of £500 and a maximum of £20,000.

The new company – which was incorporated this week – is a co-operative, meaning each share holder will get one vote, regardless of their level of financial investment. The company is also subject to the ethical values of the co-operative movement.

The share offer will be launched at STEAM in Swindon on Tuesday, July 16 and at Salisbury Guildhall on Thursday, July 18, with both events running between from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

There will also be an opportunity to find out more about the initiative at Lower Moor Farm visitor centre, Cricklade on Tuesday, September 3 and Langford Lakes visitor centre, Wilton on Wednesday, September 4, both between 5pm and 8pm.  

Oldest hotel in Britain is for sale

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Red LionThe oldest purpose-built hotel in the country – and possibly the world – has been put on the market, with a guide price of just under £3 million.

The Red Lion Hotel in Salisbury, which dates from the 13th century, has 51 individually-designed rooms, restaurant, bar, five conference and banqueting rooms with capacities up to 120, and an illustrious history.

Originally known as the White Bear Inn, the building was constructed in the 13th century to house the draughtsmen working on the third - and present - cathedral.

Its name was changed in the 18th century — first to The Red Lion and Cross Keys and then to The Red Lion. 

During the 18th and 19th centuries, The Red Lion Hotel housed the Salisbury Post office and during that period was one of the principal stopping points for coaches to and from London.

For the last 100 years or so, the hotel has been owned by the Thomas and Maidment families. 

Ed Bellfield, of Christie + Co, said: “The Red Lion Hotel has been a pillar of the City of Salisbury for over 700 years. Today it offers all the comfort and facilities of a modern hotel within its Middle Ages' structure.

“We’d anticipate that this combination of practical hotel and a little slice of history will prove attractive to prospective purchasers.”

For more information, contact Ed on 01962 844455 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Electric BMW will take centre stage at University Technical College launch

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BMW ActiveEOne of only 1,000 of BMW's new electric cars will take centre stage at the launch of Swindon's University Technical College Swindon at STEAM on Thursday, July 11.

UTC Swindon, which is due to open its doors in September 2014, has teamed up with Swindon-based contract hire and fleet management provider Arval to use the car as part of its summer marketing campaign.

UTC ambassadors will be touring the college catchment area with the event team in the innovative BMW ActiveE, to promote the new college.

They will be calling at Marlborough Jazz Festival from Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21, Devizes International Street Festival on Sunday and Monday, August 25 and 26; The Cricklade Show on Saturday, September 16, Wiltshire Game & County Fair on Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, and Marlborough Big and Little Mop Fair on Saturdays October 5 and 12.

The BMW ActiveE, leased by Arval, is the first electric car produced by the company. Part of BMW Group’s field trials for long term electric mobility, the ActiveE will inform the development of future electric BMW’s, including the BMW i3 which is scheduled for late 2013.

The car became well known across the UK last year when BMW provided thousands of vehicles, many with green technology, for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Dr Gareth Neighbour, head of Engineering at Oxford Brookes University, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for UTC Swindon to showcase its commitment to engineering and enterprise in education.

Thanks to Arval, we can share with potential students and their families a wonderful example of cutting edge technology. It will clearly demonstrate the support we are receiving from today’s world leaders in engineering.”

Swindon’s University Technical College will cater for 600 14 to 19 year olds interested in pursuing a career in engineering, promising an opportunity to gain highly desirable skills and raise the aspirations o young engineers in progressing to careers in the engineering industry in all its diverse forms.

Tracey Scarr, CSR manager for Arval, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support the team at UTC Swindon as they begin an exciting journey to bring engineering and enterprise to young people.

We work very closely with all of the vehicle manufacturers to gain access to the latest models and technologies. This fantastic car is just one example of engineering excellence which students locally can enjoy.”

At the open evening at STEAM, staff and directors from the University Technology College will describe this new offer in technical education and how to apply for places. Designs of the state-of-the art buildings will be on display. There will be presentations on details of the curriculum at UTC Swindon and how the courses are linked to the work of local and national engineering employers.

For more information log on to www.utcswindon.co.uk


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