Empica return home with new clients

A Bristol public relations agency has moved back into its offices in Long Ashton with a clutch of new clients this week after three months in exile following last year’s floods.

Freak flash floods in November last year swept through the offices of Empica public relations on Long Ashton but the nine-strong PR business used a combination of remote working and borrowed offices to ensure it was business as usual and has even gained clients during the three months without a base.

Moving back in this week the agency is celebrating with new clients including APRIL UK, one of the leading suppliers of income protection and health insurance; privately managed exclusive new home builder Redcliffe Homes and publisher Bristol Books all signed up while the offices were being dried out and repaired.

Managing Director Martin Powell said: “Helping clients deal with the media in a crisis is one of the major parts of our business, but this was the first time we have had to deal with a major event ourselves.

“The weather last year was unusual and parts of the Chew Valley and North Somerset were flooded that had never experienced such a thing before. Our offices are in the bottom of a valley but in 11 years we had never experienced consistent rain over such a period that led to us having to abandon the offices.

“Thankfully one of our clients is property agent Colliers International who were able to point us in the direction of some temporary accommodation. We lodged with office interior design company McFeggan Brown, at their offices in Flax Bourton and we are grateful to them being so accommodating. It was fantastic that North Somerset businesses help each other out in this way.

“To have actually expanded the business while not having offices was fantastic and we are at advanced stages with other potential new clients that we expect to announce in March.

“The greatest compliment was a week or so ago when the Chief Executive of one of our clients told me she had not even realised we had been flooded as the service had continued seamlessly for her business.”

The Empica name hit the Bristol PR scene in 2008 but the agency has roots going back to 1989 with long-established clients including travel and tourism clients Bakers Dolphin and Wookey Hole Caves and West Country charities including St Pater’s Hospice and Afghan Heroes.

24-hour charity challenge for intrepid insurance teams

Teams of intrepid walkers from April UK’s Bradley Stoke office will be lining up for the start of the gruelling Trek50 Pennines Way walk in June.

Teams of four will be braving the elements as they tackle the 50-mile all-terrain course in just 24 hours.

Funds raised on the challenge will help improve children’s healthcare through the  MedEquip4Kids charity.

MedEquip4Kids improves the health of children and babies by providing equipment not available from NHS resources and has raised more than £12 million to fund equipment and facilities which directly benefit around 79,000 children each year.

April UK marketing assistant Christine Brown, who is helping to coordinate the walk, said  Trek50  was designed to test participants to the limit.

“The course has climbs totalling more than 2,400 metres which is equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis and Snowdon, so we know we have a challenge in store.”

The April UK teams are putting in the miles on practice walks, tackling Pen Y Fan in Wales in atrocious weather conditions last week.

Christine said: “As providers of family health and medical care we are aware of the great work undertaken by  MedEquip4Kids – it’s a cause very close to our hearts.”

The teams have set up a JustGiving page: http://www.justgiving.com/apriluk Trek50, which will take place over the weekend of June 22/23 uses some of the many trails that criss-cross the Pennines and incorporates ancient packhorse routes and drover’s roads across an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Established in 1997, APRIL UK is part of the international APRIL Group headquartered in Lyon, France, which looks after six million policyholders in 37 countries worldwide. The group has a market value in excess of £776 million.

Our photograph shows April UK charity trekkers Wayne Carter (Sales Director), Nicki Moore (Technical Services Team Leader). Joe Blackburn (Business Development Executive) and Wayne’s wife Amanda.

Size matters as Asda announces new distribution centre at Avonmouth

Cranes are already on site at the former Rhodia site in Avonmouth as work gets underway on a 616,000 sq ft chilled and frozen facility and distribution centre for Asda.

Colliers International were the property advisor on the project.

The deal is three times the size of the firm’s headline big shed deal in 2012, which saw Yankee Candle take 170,000 sq ft of space at the vacant 4Mation unit.

Combined, the two Asda buildings are bigger than similar centres built for the supermarket giant’s rivals Tesco, Co Op and John Lewis.

Other major occupiers in the area include Robert Wiseman Dairies, Superdrug, Honda, Keuhne and Nagel, Accolade Wines, Avon & Somerset Police and DSV.

Head of Colliers International’s Bristol office Tim Davies said the deal was further evidence that the Avonmouth area was being seen as one of the leading distribution hubs in the UK.

He said: “Simple economies of scale and the first rate transport network north-west of Bristol are bringing more and more business to Avonmouth and putting the area at the centre of the UK’s industrial and logistics map.

“With the M4 and M5 motorway junctions close by Avonmouth is delivering the most efficient transport solutions not just for the whole of the South West but South Wales as well.

“Size is clearly becoming more and more important in today’s economy. The Co op opened a 450,000 sq foot facility in November and Tesco has launched a 500,000 sq ft centre.

Asda completed the purchase of 40 acres of land from French chemical giant Rhodia. The site had been used by various heavy chemical industries since 1917 and was closed and partially demolished in 2006.

The £70m development  provides a new chilled and frozen facility of 485,000 s ft longside an Asda Service Centre of 131,000 sq ft has the capacity to support 123 stores and replaces Asda’s previous depot at Portbury.

Rare chance to take handsome New Forest Hotel to next level

A charming hotel in the New Forest is being marketed by Colliers International at a cool £1.75m freehold.

Sway Manor near Lymington is ideally situated to capitalise on significant visitor numbers  drawn to one of the UK’s most enduring tourist hubs.

Hotels Director Simon Wells said: “Tourism continues to hold up well in the New Forest and judging by the strong response we had when selling the Crown Hotel at Lyndhurst just down the road potential buyers remain as keen as ever to get hold of the right property in this superb location.

“Properties of this quality do not come to market very often and Sway Manor’s stylish and flexible accommodation makes it an outstanding all-round proposition.”

The charming 16-bedroom hotel, which enjoys a village setting and five acres of grounds on the edge of the New Forest, is capable of holding functions for up to 120 guests and is a popular mid-week and weekend wedding venue.

Built as an Edwardian gentleman’s residence in 1906, the manor features a smart bar and lounge  leading to the Conservatory which has fantastic views over the exceptionally well laid out gardens.

As well as the extensive grounds there is a heated swimming pool with small changing rooms underneath and to the side of the property, a boules court.

The wide range of tourist hotspots within easy driving distance includes Beaulieu Motor Museum, Buckler’s Hard and Lymington Harbour.

Simon Wells said: “The national park covers 220 square miles and is a magnet for walkers, cyclists and horse riding. As a result, the area is busy all year round with of scope to develop the business.”

The owner  bought the hotel in 2002 and then completed a wide ranging renovation programme taking in the bar, lounge and restaurant.

A number of the 16 bedrooms (thirteen double and three twins) have also been renovated.

Simon Wells concluded: “Having successfully run the  hotel since 2002 our client is about to retire and this opens up a fantastic opportunity for new operators to come in and take the business forward.

All enquiries should be directed to Simon Wells, Hotels Director, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

APRIL UK and PMI Partners hit record sales following partnership

Protection and health insurance specialist APRIL UK enjoyed a record month of broker sales in January, following a successful start to their new partnership with PMI Partners.

PMI Partners, a health insurance broker based in Cheltenham, provide a telephone based advisory service. They recently agreed terms to add APRIL UK to their PMI panel, which already includes key insurers, Aviva, PruHealth, AXA and Simply Health.

Richard Kerton, Head of Medical Insurance at PMI Partners said: “January has been a great month for us and seen us achieve record PMI sales. We pride ourselves on the quality of advice we offer our customers and part of that includes recommending a PMI provider that we can trust. APRIL UK seem to tick all the right boxes, combining a good range of benefits with competitive pricing and are a welcome addition to our PMI panel.”

Wayne Carter, Sales Director at APRIL UK, said, ‘Since releasing our PMI plan to the broker market last year, our sales have gone from strength to strength. We are delighted that established names in the broker market, such as PMI Partners, have taken our plan on board and seen the benefits that it offers. We look forward to forging a long term and successful relationship with PMI Partners.”

APRIL UK already work with key brokers including Chase Templeton, Right to Health and Active Quote. They have set themselves a target of £4 million worth of new PMI sales this year and recruited another broker development manager earlier this month to bolster their broker offering.

Established in 1997, APRIL UK is part of the international APRIL Group headquartered in Lyon, France, which looks after six million policyholders in 37 countries worldwide. The group has a market value in excess of £776 million.

Accountants on “most admired” list

Accountants Saffery Champness, who have an office in Clifton, Bristol have been named as one of the Top 25 Most Admired Companies in the latest national rankings drawn up by leading industry commentators.

The firm earned two mentions in the coveted Private Client Practitioner’s national rankings both as a trust company and as an accountancy firm.

David Lemon, head of Saffery Champness’ Bristol office, said the double entry in the Top 25 ultimate rankings reflected the hard work of staff following a particularly successful six months.

He said: “It’s good going to achieve one mention in these nationally recognised rankings let alone two. We are especially pleased as we have a strong commitment to developing staff and these latest plaudits reflect the extraordinary effort they have put in.”

Private Client Practitioner – a publication aimed at leading private client professionals – introduced the rankings to celebrate the largest and most successful private client-centric advisory businesses in the UK.

The nomination-based Top 25 Most Admired list is made up of law and accountancy firms, trust companies and independent financial advisers that have been featured in PCP’s regular Top 25 lists for their respective fields.

David Lemon continued: “Most Admired companies are selected as a result of the quantity and quality of votes received following an open call for nominations and it means a lot to us to receive such plaudits from our industry colleagues whether they are our peers, contacts or clients.

“The rankings will help us maintain our reputation as one of the top private client firms both nationally, and here in Bristol where we have a strong private client and trust team. This  represents a welcome endorsement of the high standards of service we deliver to and the strong relationships we develop with our clients.”

Retail experts called in to brief taskforce on High Street decline

Commercial property experts Colliers International have been brought in to advise a Government taskforce charged with tackling the decline of Britain’s High Streets.

The Distressed Retail Property Taskforce has been set up to identify ways of rejuvenating   struggling town centres and has appointed the property consultancy to report back on the problems which have built up in the sector during the downturn.

Colliers International planning and heritage expert James Edwards supported a number of local campaigns aimed at securing additional funding for the West’s embattled High Streets and helped mobilise public opinion behind the schemes.

Welcoming the initiative, he said: “We have been closely involved with a number of schemes aimed at halting the decline of our High Streets and strongly supported several towns bidding for a share of the Government’s £1.2m ‘Portas Plan’ pot.

“Five Somerset towns – Chard, Wellington, Taunton, Wincanton and Burnham – made unsuccessful bids while just two West locations – Bedminster in Bristol and Liskeard in Cornwall were lucky enough to receive support.

“In the meantime, many of our towns remain vulnerable to the sea change in shopping trends which has seen a steep decline in footfall as people increasingly look online for everything from cameras to cauliflowers.”

James added that it wasn’t just the small Somerset towns which had suffered. Even major shopping attractions such as Park Street in Bristol had seen an increase in the number of empty shops – with some premises  taken over by short-term ‘pop-up’ operations.

The  new Government-backed taskforce includes representatives from the British Council of Shopping Centres, British Property Federation, British Retail Consortium, the Local Government Association and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

James Edwards said the broad range of expertise was exactly what was required if High Street retailers were to be given any hope of stemming the decline.

He said: “We have been appointed to assess the towns and cities that are in distress, examining the property-related issues affecting these locations. By identifying the common themes across the country we can help pave the way for regenerative change.”

Findings of the study would be assessed to identify solutions to issues relating to property investment, management and development in town centres.

James Edwards concluded: “We will be looking at the root causes of town centre distress and working with the taskforce to address them.

“The main objective will be to identify a range of robust solutions to assist in the repositioning of town centres to enable them to operate successfully within the new retail hierarchy. It is clear fundamental changes will be required to reverse years of decline in the face of out of town centres and the internet.”

Mini-boom restores Stow pubs and hotels to splendour

Successful pub and hotel re-launches in Stow-on-the-Wold appear to have borne out last summer’s mini boom in the busy Cotswolds’ town.

A stylish renovation programme has just been completed at the Bell Inn which reopened last week to ringing tills and widespread acclaim.

The Royalist hotel just around the corner is due to undergo a refurbishment starting in April and the Grapevine across the road has had a huge team of decorators in as the new owners drive up the standard of the business.

All three properties were sold by go-to Cotswolds hotels specialist Peter Brunt from Colliers International.

He said: “After all the sales activity last summer it’s great to see the new owners in Stow-on-the-Wold are pushing on with refurbishment programmes aimed at bringing   these favourite locations back into the mainstream Cotswolds scene.”

The Bell Inn is setting the pace, with pub transformers Sue and Rachel Hawkins unveiling the results of an extensive refit to public acclaim last week.

Sue said: “We are now officially open and I am pleased to report that trade is brisk. We have seen a good crowd of locals come in to check out the changes and are hoping the Bell will prove as popular with visitors to the town.”

Sue & Rachel are well established in the area already in the region having operated the Church Street Townhouse in Stratford-on-Avon, the George at Shipston-on-Stour and the Fox and Goose at Armscote.

Peter Brunt commented: “Having visited several of Sue’s previous pubs I was confident the Bell would look fabulous and I can definitely report Sue and Rachel haven’t lost their touch.”

The Bell Inn is the seventh pub to be targeted by specialist pub transformers Sue and her niece Rachel.

“Sue’s success also bears out my belief that Stow remains a prime Cotswolds destination and remains a highly desirable place in which to buy.”

The nearby Grapevine is also being moved up market this time by experienced Cotswolds hotel operators Elaine and Martin Booth.

One of the main triggers for the high levels of activity seen in Stow and elsewhere across the hotels team’s Cotswolds stronghold – is caused by the big breweries disposing of or  acquiring pubs.

Peter Brunt explained: “Breweries tend to be a little more fickle as to their pub requirements than smaller operators or couples. This sometimes results in perfectly good and profitable premises being placed on the market because they don’t quite fit in with the estate’s current direction of travel.

“We have a number of premises falling into this category which would certainly suit owner occupation – and make a lovely home into the bargain.”

All enquiries should be directed to Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Homes deal key to wider regeneration of Lockleaze

Moves to help regenerate Gainsborough Square in Lockleaze have finally got off the ground following years of negotiations between developers and the local community association.

Land and property agents CJH Land brokered the deal which will see the Bristol Community Housing Foundation and Knightstone Housing Association pushing ahead with a mixed residential and commercial use development on the 0.8 acre site – which was abandoned in the 1960s and has become something of an eyesore.

Bristol City Council has approved BCHF’s scheme to build 15 new houses, 14 apartments along with assorted commercial and retail units on the Gainsborough Square site.

Lockleaze Community Association will use proceeds from the sale to fund an ambitious refurbishment of their club building off Romney Avenue.

CJH Land director Matthew Hiles said the intention was to re-develop the key site opposite Lockleaze Day Centre as a smart new hub for the entire area.

He said: “Lockleaze residents and councillors have been trying to push ahead with the re-development of this site for years but the various schemes put forward hit a number of obstacles, not least access issues and the effects of the recession.

“It has taken a lot of hard work but we have finally put a deal in place which will not only clear an eyesore in the centre of the area but also allow the community association to completely revamp their existing clubhouse next to St James Church.”

The community association called in CJH Land to sell the Gainsborough Square site back in 2006 and negotiations were held with several developers over the years.

Lockleaze Community Association chairman Alan Richards said the development would give the entire area a much-needed shot in the arm.

He said: “We have been trying to clear this eyesore site for years as it is central to the wider regeneration of Lockleaze. To keep the costs down as far as possible community association volunteers have already begun work clearing the building ready for the first phase of the refurbishment programme to begin.”

Alan Richards said the proceeds from the sale will be used to fund a two phase refurbishment of the club house beginning with the function room and entrance followed by the social club itself.

He concluded: “The community centre represents one of the only public facilities in the area. We are hoping this development will be the catalyst for the widespread regeneration of Lockleaze which has got too used to going without since the district was developed during the 1960s.”

CJH Land Limited, based in Flax Bourton  South of Bristol, specialises in the sale of residential development land and have been extremely encouraged with their sector of the property market in recent months.

Matthew Hiles said: “The last 18-24 months has been very busy for us and we have been involved in a number of significant land sales. All of the house builders and developers we work with are seeking new land opportunities as the housing market in this part of the country seems pretty stable.”

APRIL UK eye further opportunities in Sports PMI market

Protection and health insurance specialists APRIL UK has appointed Anthony Muckell to head up their dedicated sports division following a successful launch.

The sports division was set up just over 12 months ago to road test their new private medical insurance plan which is aimed at semi and full professional sports people. Already a number of major sports clubs have taken up the plan, including 12 of the 13 UK based Rugby League Super League sides.

Anthony Muckell said the firm’s Sports PMI policy had already made huge inroads into the Rugby League heartlands in the north of England. They were Salford City Reds’ official health insurance provider for the 2012 season and have signed a shirt sponsorship deal with Featherstone Rovers for the new season.

APRIL UK’s sports medical insurance was also a major factor in the recent dual registration partnership between Super League Huddersfield Giants and championship Batley Bulldogs, which sees players from the lower league side benefit from the same level of healthcare as their Super League counterpart.

Anthony Muckell said: “We have received a fantastic response from all the Super League clubs and have also added seven Co-operative championship outfits into the bargain.

“It’s important that we continue to work closely with the rugby league teams on our books to consolidate our relationships. However, my job is to make APRIL UK a household name within the sports industry and we are now looking to expand into other sports including rugby union and football.”

Anthony said the increasing physicality in the modern rugby game – both 15 and 13-man codes – meant proper medical insurance protection was absolutely essential. He said semi-pro players were particularly vulnerable in case of injury.

“Professional players might find themselves out for weeks or even months through injury, but would still enjoy financial and welfare support from their club. Semi pro players might find themselves unable to do their day job, let alone turn out on a Saturday afternoon.”

“I am determined to ensure players today aren’t forced to trust to luck every time they pull on the jersey. It is absolutely essential players are adequately covered whether they are professionals turning out for the top clubs or semi-pros who belong to the lower echelon clubs which do not generally have in house medical insurance cover.”

Anthony’s no-nonsense approach has helped convince clubs and individuals alike to take a second look at their medical cover in the event of injury on the field.

He said: “We have had an unbelievably successful first year rolling out our Sports PMI policy not only to the big rugby league teams but also many semi-professional sports people.”

APRIL UK’s Sports PMI Plan – which provides immediate access to diagnostics and scans – is now being looked at by a number of big name rugby union and football teams. To cope with the increasing demand, APRIL UK is also now in the process of recruiting new sports protection advisers to bolster their sports division.

Anthony said: “With the UK staging the rugby league world cup this year we are hoping the increased publicity will generate even more interest in the sport – we are aiming to drill down from the Super League down to the most junior sides to ensure all players are fully protected when they take the field.”

Established in 1997, APRIL UK is part of the international APRIL Group headquartered in Lyon, France, which looks after six million policyholders in 37 countries worldwide. The group has a market value in excess of £776 million.