Forge Property Consultants is delighted to announce the promotion of Tom Mason to the role of Associate Director, with immediate effect. This new role reflects Tom’s considerable contribution to the business over the last seven years and will include the introduction of new work and increased management responsibility.

Tom Mason joined Forge Property Consultants in 2013, after graduating from Harper Adams University, where he studied Rural Enterprise and Land Management. He passed his Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in 2014 to become a Chartered Surveyor, and is also an RICS Registered Valuer.

Tom is immersed across the Forge business and has a specialist knowledge of the Water Industry Act, having been heavily involved in one of the region’s largest water projects.

Over the years, Tom has contributed a number of initiatives to the business, including the introduction of the RICS Homebuyers Reports and successful applications to valuation panels. He has also been instrumental in helping to develop the business and grow the client base from the company’s Staffordshire office on Eccleshall High Street, which opened in 2017.

Charles Lawson, Director and founder of Forge Property Consultants, says, “It is a great pleasure to promote Tom to the role of Associate Director. It is a key objective of the business to identify, nurture and retain good property professionals and give them the scope to develop their roles and progress within the business. Tom’s promotion is in recognition of the success he has achieved over many years of excellent service for Forge Property Consultants.

“Tom is innovative, ambitious and an excellent communicator, and in discussion with Tom it is very clear he has further plans for growing the Staffordshire office. I feel this promotion is well deserved.”

Speaking on his promotion, Tom Mason stated: “I joined the business as its first full-time employee, fresh out of university. Seven years down the line and the business has grown significantly and provided me with an excellent opportunity to develop as a professional, a businessman, and as a person.

“I look forward to offering more valuations, property management and planning advice to farmers, rural business and the domestic market in the Staffordshire area in my new role of Associate Director.”

Forge Property Consultants Ltd is a firm of Chartered Surveyors and Valuers, providing advice on a wide range of property and land matters from its offices in Shropshire and Staffordshire. Experienced in working with all types of property, the company has a particular specialism in farms and land-based work. Clients include private clients, companies and statutory undertakers located from Northumberland to Devon, although most of the business is based in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, the West Midlands, and north and mid Wales. For more information on Forge Property Consultants, go to http://www.forgeproperty.co.uk.

An iconic landmark on the Stoke-on-Trent skyline is to be preserved, thanks to a grant from Historic England.

Kirklands Properties, the owner of the Phoenix Works, Longton, has made a successful bid for 90 per cent of the £100,000 costs of repair and renovation of the former pottery works. 90ft high chimney.

The company has been carefully restoring the Phoenix Works and reinventing it as office and retail space.

Director Mark Milner applied for Historic England funding as part of his plans to refurbish new areas of the former Thomas Forester and Sons factory.

Mark said: “The chimney dates back to when the factory was originally built in 1881 and is a familiar feature above the Longton skyline. While we have no future use for the chimney or the bottle kilns on site, we see their preservation as part of our duty as custodians of an important part of Stoke-on-Trent’s history.”

Kirklands Properties is now working with CTD Architects, based in Leek, to draw up plans to restore the chimneys brickworks. A report by Historic England states that some level of structural intervention will be required, along with renewal of defective bricks and repointing. It adds: “Partial dismantling and rebuilding of the crown brickwork should also be anticipated. The full extent of structural repairs will only be determined once an access scaffold has been erected and the Chimney brickwork examined in detail.”

All the current office units are let and Kirklands Properties have begun work to renovate a further 6,000 sq. ft. of space over two-storeys for offices.  Portmeirion have recently vacated their outlet shop at the Phoenix Works and this is currently available to let through Mounsey Chartered Surveyors.

There’s also more long-term plans to develop a large undeveloped part of the former majolica works for housing.

During lockdown, Mark has installed large parasols over outdoor seating in the courtyard between the shops and offices and the Glost House café bar.

“Now staff are returning to the offices and customers are back at the Glost House, the area is ideal for people to enjoy a drink or a meal in the fresh air,” said Mark. “We’re hoping it will help with social distancing and give a boost to the Glost House, a popular café bar that has recently reopened after more than three months in lockdown.”

Jane Corfield, Heritage and Design team manager at Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “I am pleased to be working with Mark to bring about the heritage led regeneration of this Grade 2 listed former factory. Mark has created a positive and attractive destination in Longton and it is great to see how good modern design sits in this historic context to achieve a best of both solution.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published labour market figures for August 2020 on Tuesday.

While the headline data continues to lag behind the reality, the decline in number of employees on payrolls and hours worked is further evidence of the damage being done to the UK labour market by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The job retention scheme has been successful in preserving millions of jobs through furlough. However, with firms continuing to face a perfect storm of increased costs, reduced demand, and diminished cash reserves, unemployment is likely to surge as government support schemes wind down in the next two months.

We are already seeing a steady stream of redundancy announcements in Staffordshire across all sectors from retail to manufacturing and hospitality to services.

If job losses continue to accelerate, we can expect to see a further drop in consumer spending which will in turn lead to a downturn in production – a vicious cycle.

We are lobbying the government via the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), to reduce the cost of employment and prevent more redundancies through actions like an expansion of the Employment Allowance and a cut in employer NIC contributions.

If there are other issues you would like us to make representations on then please let us know by emailing: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

I was heartened to read an open letter to all businesses in the county, from Cllr Alan White, the new leader of Staffordshire County Council who replaces Cllr Philip Atkins.

Cllr White says: “ Our role as a county council is to create the right conditions for our economy to grow, for businesses to invest and create more jobs for our people which is the foundation of living a healthy, happy and productive life. Reigniting and renewing the economy, through investment in skills and training, and supporting businesses to adjust to a post Covid-19 world, is central. But we must also inspire and equip current and future generations to learn new skills and increase their potential throughout their lives.

So, whilst my attention is on long-term stability, it is also on continuing to support everyone through the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the virus has not gone away, and we must all continue to follow the rules to avoid any future lockdowns. To this end I’m urging all business leaders to help protect their livelihood by knowing what to do if an outbreak happens at their business. For some of you this will be defined when just one confirmed case is reported to you by employees, visitors or NHS Test and Trace. The government has developed a number of ‘action cards’ or quick-reference guides outlining the key steps to help you quickly identify, report and respond to any potential Covid-19 outbreak.”

Staffordshire County Council have always been supportive of business and especially the Chamber and it is extremely good news that we have such a proactive and pragmatic new leader giving his full attention to the recovery of the Staffordshire economy.

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is looking to support the EY Foundation with their Smart Futures Programme taking place in Stoke-on-Trent this Autumn.

The EY (Ernst and Young) Foundation is an independent UK charity that supports young people who are facing significant barriers to the labour market. They aim to bring young people and employers together to close the skills gap between UK business and hidden, untapped talent, through a variety of work experience and employability skills programmes.

The Foundation will be launching their Smart Futures programme to support young people across Stoke-on-Trent in Autumn 2020. Aimed at young people aged 16-18 from low income backgrounds, who are studying for A Levels/BTEC Level 3, the programme provides these young people with two weeks of paid employability skills training, delivered virtually by experienced skills coaches and former EY employees. This is then followed by one week of paid work experience. The whole cost of the programme is covered by the foundation so there is no cost for the young person, or any businesses involved. Young people have to go through a strict application and interview process to become involved in the programme.

The Foundation have successfully run these programmes in Manchester, Birmingham and London and are looking to deliver their second cohort in Stoke-on-Trent this year.

Staffordshire Chambers and the EY Foundation will be hosting a virtual roundtable and presentation webinar where businesses will be able to find out more and how they might like to get involved in this exciting programme. This roundtable will take place on 17th September 2020 at 12:30pm and should run for 1 hour.

If you would like to find our more, register your interest for the webinar by contacting tom.nadin@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Sara’s Blog: Stoke Reads

By the time schools return in September it will be six months since most children have had regular education and schooling.

We already know that many primary school children in our area fall behind in their literacy by comparison to other areas of the UK and that for many there is limited or no access to books.

Stoke Reads is an organisation that works incredibly hard to inspire families across the city to read together and helps parents to support their children’s literacy skills. They also work with schools to support the teaching of literacy, and partner with local businesses who support them in their mission to raise literacy levels in the city.

Importantly, Stoke Reads also gives positive support for working parents, particularly over the summer through initiatives such as Story Quest or the Book Bench Trail, which features eight trails based throughout the parks of Stoke-on-Trent.

Stoke Reads relies on the support of many partner organisations such as YMCA, HUBB Foundation, Port Vale Foundation, Stoke City, Santus, the BID, VAST, Stoke Speaks Out and Middleport Matters as well as many local businesses.

They have already worked with 53 primary schools and 14 local organisations to provide nearly 3000 activity packs and over 5000 books to children across the city. Five external organisations have provided donations to the city including Harper Collins, Bloomsbury publishers, KMPG and REY Paper. These donations have included Harry Potter books, activity packs and paper, children’s magazine, and instant libraries for primary schools.

However, they are still only scratching the surface and need continued support from our business community to reach even more children. Any help is appreciated no matter how small – and it is a great way to fulfil your corporate social responsibility requirements.

We are looking at our future workforce here and we all know that grasping the skill of reading and a love of books at primary school age sets you on course for academic achievement and a fulfilling career.

I would urge all employers to take a look at the Stoke Reads and the support on offer to employees and their families. To find out more about how you can help Stoke Reads you can visit www.stokereads.org.uk or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StokeReads/

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.