Delivering Biodiversity Net Gain solutions

A Lancashire based business is working to help developers meet their mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) needs while creating a diversified income for landowners.

The Environment Act 2021 has created the requirement that virtually all future building developments in England must produce at least a 10 per cent uplift in biodiversity. The Act aims to ensure that biodiversity is left in a measurably better state than before the development.

BNG is already included in the national planning policy framework (NPPF) and must be included as a part of the planning application process, with a 10 per cent gain becoming a legal obligation for virtually all developments in 2023.

When submitting a planning application, developers will need to demonstrate how they will create that 10 per cent biodiversity uplift.

The delivery of BNG will be legally secured through either a conservation covenant between landowners and responsible bodies which will bind the relevant sites as local land charges or through a planning obligation which runs with the land.

These obligations will apply to new planning applications submitted after November 2023. However, some local authorities are already treating BNG as if it applies now and require it to be provided as part of a scheme.

Susan Gutierrez-Inostroza, of Lancashire-based Legacy Habitat Bank (LHB), based in Barnacre, near Garstang, says: “If you have a development proposal that requires planning permission, it is highly likely that BNG requirements within the new environment bill will impact your project.

“However, it can be challenging for developers trying to mitigate biodiversity loss and achieve the 10 per cent gain required to secure planning approval, which should be through on-site provision as far as is possible.

“The ability to deliver on-site biodiversity is often limited and impractical, due to the value of development land being higher for housing and the chance of having enough space within the footprint of the development scheme unlikely in many cases.

“There are other challenges. For example, developers will be liable for the on-site BNG provision, monitoring, and reporting for the next 30 years, even once the site has been sold.”

Biodiversity gains and losses will be measured in ‘units’ and where not enough units can be provided onsite, offsite provision can be counted.

Susan believes developers will increasingly look to these offsite solutions through specialised habitat banks, using BNG credits that they can buy.

She says: “We believe off-site BNG credits will be the practical way for most developers to offset their BNG uplift requirements and avoid costly time delays in gaining planning consent.”

Susan says demand for those credits is expected to be high, with major development companies having thousands of housing and retail developments in the pipeline in Lancashire alone.

LHB provides a turnkey solution for developers, allowing them to deliver the required 10 per cent net gain by sourcing BNG units and providing ongoing monitoring, management, and reporting in line with an agreed management plan.

There is also an opportunity for landowners to receive income from their land in exchange for units and credits. For example, farmers or businesses may commit to using closed landfill sites or unused farmland to create offsite biodiversity units to sell to developers.

LHB provides clients with a bespoke BNG solution, helping the developer from pre land acquisition stage through the planning process and on to the long-term monitoring and reporting, relieving them of the 30-year commitment.

It also carries out project feasibility studies, can carry out land assessment for biodiversity gain capacity at the acquisition stage and prepare ongoing habitat management and long-term site management plans.

The business works with specialist industry partners, including ecologists, solicitors, and surveyors, bringing together skills and experience, including multi-site property management and asset optimisation, contract law, commercial property law, future budget planning and assurance, agricultural diversification, renewable energy, planning, natural habitat, and facilities management.

It is also looking to work with other landowners and farmers to develop BNG units, either through joint ventures or promotional deals.

Susan says: “We will work with farmers and landowners to provide habitat banks for BNG unit creation and create receptor sites for protected species. In return, the landowner receives a financial incentive greater than could be obtained from other schemes, for example, sale and leaseback or from the sale of nondevelopment land whilst retaining ownership of their land.

“The offset land must be subject to a conservation covenant or a planning obligation to be accepted as part of a BNG. These conditions secure the biodiversity outcomes for 30 years.”

AV business seals the deal with global giant

A specialist Lancashire audio-visual company has been acquired by a global communication services business in a deal that will allow it to accelerate its long-term growth strategy.

Pure AV, based in Preston, is now part of the Ricoh group. WNJ acted alongside and advised the Pure AV management team throughout the sale process to completion.

The company is an award-winning specialist AV integrator with specific expertise in higher education learning environments, as well as the commercial and hybrid technology markets. It has 72 employees operating across the UK, as well as on customer projects globally.

Ricoh, one of Europe’s largest AV and workplace integrators, has taken on Pure AV’s existing sites, including its premises in Preston. The entire Pure AV workforce has been retained as part of the acquisition.

Founded in 2003, the Pure AV team includes highly skilled designers, programmers, engineers, and sales specialists, who work together to deliver best in class solutions that drive communication and collaboration.

Customers of Pure AV include prominent UK universities, museums and galleries, as well as the public and private sector, healthcare, and corporate organisations.

Pure AV managing director Peter Sutton says the deal opens new opportunities for the business. He says: “We’re excited to start a new chapter that will allow us to accelerate our long-term growth strategy while delivering best-in-class solutions to our clients in the UK and Europe.

“Ricoh’s worldwide infrastructure and end-to-end managed services expertise, combined with the strength of our design, engineering, and support services, will enable us to deliver our solutions on a local and global scale.

“The marketplace is changing and looking at the whole digital workplace environment our specialism was a missing piece for Ricoh.

“This is a natural progression for their business, and we’ve got growth plans in place for the next four years as we look to continue to take it forward.

“Everyone in the business should be very proud that a global organisation has chosen to acquire a company based in Preston.”

He added: “The deal couldn’t have happened without WNJ. Running a business is one thing, going through due diligence is a completely different affair.

“WNJ brought all its experience and understanding of the process and what was needed, taking the pressure away from the management team.”

Edward Hamilton, vice president of communication services at Ricoh Europe, said: “Pure AV is a significant addition to Ricoh’s communication services delivery business, both within the UK and at a European level.

“Not only will it accelerate our organic growth in this sector, it will strengthen our technical design and delivery capability within the corporate, higher education and healthcare markets.

“Leveraging the specialist skills of Pure AV creates opportunities for lifelong learning and up-skilling of Ricoh’s existing employees, meaning our customers receive an even more diverse and extensive level of support.”

Pictured here after the completion of the deal are (left to right): Richard Lister, Pure AV, Phil Keoghan, Ricoh UK, Peter Sutton, Pure AV, Erica Whittle, Pure AV, David Mills, Ricoh Europe, Ed Hamilton, Ricoh Europe and Simon Truby, Ricoh UK.

For more details about Pure AV visit the company’s website: https://www.pureav.co.uk/

Cheers to Hopwoods!

A new bar described as a beer lover’s “paradise” will open its doors in Preston city centre this month.

The historic former Woods tobacco factory and shop on Church Street is being transformed into Hopwoods Tap House, which will offer its customers the choice of 100 different beers.

The opening, on Saturday March 5, will see 38 different beers on tap, along with a wide range of craft cans and bottles, including those from local breweries.

Preston businessman Nick Carter, whose venues include the popular Baluga Bar & Club, also on Church Street, is one of seven people involved in the project.

He said: “We are bringing something new to the city centre, it is a project we’ve been working on for something like 10 months.

“One of my friends was having a conversation with me during lockdown and said he a group of friends were looking at opening a micropub.

We all got together to discuss the possibilities and it has ended up with seven of us getting involved in this and it’s fair to say we’ve gone full pump! We wanted to offer the largest selection of craft beers on tap in Lancashire.

“We are all just beer lovers who think that there’s nowhere that offers the choice that we would like to see ourselves. So as a result, we’ve come together and created Hopwoods. It really will be something different.”

Once fully open the venue will look to offer food and it has a licence to open until 4am.

Nick said: “We’re looking to create a relaxed atmosphere where people can come to enjoy the beer and have a really good pizza.

“It’s also a place where you can come for that last drink of the night without having to queue to get into a club. The music will be very much Indie, Rock & Roll and classics.”

During the development, artefacts such as machinery and factory related equipment were discovered in the building, with some dating back 100 years. They will be put on display in the ale house for its historical context.

Hopwoods Tap House, on the corner of Church Street and Avenham Street, occupies a prime city centre site. It is directly next to the former Evoque nightclub and across from Miller Arcade.

WNJ is providing its accountancy and business advisory services to the new venture. Nick said: “We’ve got a great working relationship with WNJ that goes back a number of years, and they will continue to as our advisors and accountants in every new venture as well as our existing businesses.”

• To discuss how WNJ can help support your business plans please call me on 01772 430000

Family business takes the plaudits

Congratulations to NutreeLife. The fast-growing family company that specialises in plant-based protein foods was named ‘Small Business of the Year’ in the 2021 Be Inspired Business Awards (BiBAs).

Co-founders Patrick Mroczak and Adam Hodgkinson, with staff members, received their prestigious award at a prize giving ceremony held at Blackpool Tower. They were one of 18 businesses honoured at the event.

Patrick described it as a “cracking night”. He said: “We had a super time with our staff, and we are honoured to have won this prestigious award.”

It is NutreeLife’s second major success in the BiBAs. It won the best new business at the 2019 awards.

The business has also seen its turnover soar since its move into new purpose-built manufacturing premises in 2020.

It made the move from Preston to the Dakota Business Park in Burscough, investing £1.5m in new equipment on its journey to future growth.

NutreeLife, which has a 71-strong workforce, makes high quality protein bars, snacks and burger mixes that are high in protein and low in sugars. Its clients include a number of major UK brands.

With support from WNJ, the business has also been able to invest heavily in the Research and Development work that is central to its success.

WNJ has advised NutreeLife on its successful applications for R&D tax relief, which supports businesses in all sectors working on innovative projects in science and technology.

It can be claimed by a range of companies that seek to research or develop an advance in their field. It can even be claimed on unsuccessful projects.

The company was created to “make great nutrition accessible for all” and its founders Patrick and managing director Adam Hodgkinson have years of experience and dedication in the food, nutrition and beverage industry.

They set out to establish NutreeLife after recognising a gap in the market for a vegan and ‘free-from’ range of protein supplements.

• To discuss how WNJ can help support your business please contact me on 01772 430000.

Buyout team builds for growth

A Burnley-based business bought out by its senior management team earlier this year has revealed plans for growth as it emerges from the pandemic.

RAM Services, a specialist structural repair and refurbishment contractor, has a strong order book and pipeline of work.

Established in 1980, the company provides a range of services to the power and water supply and distribution sector, the wider civil engineering industry and to a range of public sector organisations.

It operates primarily in the North West of England but also works all over the UK and sometimes overseas.

The buyout deal, for an undisclosed sum, saw its shareholders retire and exit the business with Paul Haworth, contracts director, and James Best, business development manager, taking full control.

WNJ carried out financial due diligence for the buyout team. The MBO was completed in March this year, after being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lancashire-based businessman Paul Lansom facilitated the funding to the deal and guided and advised the management team throughout the process, assisted by WNJ and solicitor David Southern of Vincents.

He said: “The deal took 12 months longer than it should because of Covid-19 but we managed to get it moving again and over the line and everyone involved was pleased with the eventual outcome.

“It is a really strong business with two new directors, and going forward, following a period of consolidation, the management team has some ambitious plans for growth.

“The company has a good reputation for quality and it is this quality ethos that permeates through all tiers of the operation. The future is looking really positive.”

He added: “WNJ did an excellent job during the MBO process and the business will be appointing them as auditors moving forward.”

Continuing to bloom!

The Smith family’s business has been a growing concern for more than 80 years but the last 16 months has been one of the most challenging periods in its history.

Peter H Smith supplies flowers and plants, sourced from near, and far to florists and supermarkets in the North of England.

The company, one of the largest independent wholesalers of its kind in the UK, has had to overcome the double impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit on its operations.

Led by husband-and-wife team Nick and Diane, it has overcome those challenges and is emerging from the pandemic strongly and with confidence in the future.

Nick says: “We are a proud, third generation British family company. We believe in the business and we believe in what we are doing.”

Peter H Smith can trace its origins back to a market garden in Tarleton, which was started by Nick’s grandfather.

His father Michael then developed this into the current wholesale business on the original Preston Market and it has grown and expanded into state-of-the-art premises in Ashton-on-Ribble.

Today the wholesaler supplies flowers and plants from across the world, as well as nearer home in the UK. Every day it receives colourful blooms from places as far away as Africa, and South America.

A team of workers creates bouquets destined for sale in well-known supermarkets and stores and the business operates its own fleet of delivery vehicles.

Nick recalls the immediate impact of the first lockdown on the business. From being a 24-hour well-oiled operation with 48 staff, the company found itself closing the doors to its premises and sending everyone home.

Only Nick, Diane and one member of staff remained as a ‘click and collect’ service was set up. As the pandemic continued the business also increased its online sales presence.

Nick says: “We did whatever we could. It has been difficult, and we’ve received no financial support. Sales disappeared but the bills didn’t.”

The company has slowly brought its workers back and Diane says sales are now at pre-Covid levels.

Brexit has been another challenge. The cost of flowers has risen as a result of the UK leaving the single market. However, Nick says that it has worked closely with importers to minimise the impact of extra paperwork on the operation.

Nick and Diane are looking ahead to the easing of all restrictions and the return of events such as weddings and corporate gatherings, which will provide a major boost for their sector.

Nick says: “Our staff have been really supportive and have stuck by us. We’ve had to change the way we work, and they have responded really well to those changes. It has been a real learning curve for all of us.”

There has been investment in a new computer system as the company looks to the future.

Nick says he is also grateful for the advice and support received from WNJ during the pandemic.

He says: “We’ve a long relationship with WNJ and they have been there for us throughout the pandemic. As well as their valuable advice, when needed they are also a friendly ear on the end of the phone!”

Peter H Smith is based on Chain Caul Way, near Preston’s docklands. For more information on its services call 01772 333000 or email sales@peterhsmith.com