Coronavirus business update: Latest news across the North West

A typical Anwyl Homes street

Housebuilder Anwyl Homes will re-open the sales offices and show homes at all of its developments in North West England from this Saturday, May 30.

Following the Government’s recent easing of lockdown measures in England, Anwyl has been working towards the safe phased re-opening of its developments in Cheshire, Merseyside and Lancashire.

The sales offices will re-open via appointment only and will follow strict social distancing guidelines, with a limited number of visitors allowed on site and in the show homes at any one time.

Managing director of Anwyl Homes in Cheshire and North Wales, Phil Dolan, said: “We are thrilled to be re-opening the sales offices and show homes at all of our developments in England.

“We have carefully considered our approach to re-opening sites and have introduced comprehensive procedures to protect both our staff and potential purchasers.

“Throughout lockdown we have been encouraged by the high level of enquiries we received online, with many progressing to the reservation stage. The success of virtual consultations and viewings has been superb, however, it is time to get back to our developments, welcoming customers and new homebuyers in person.”

The sales offices and show homes at Anwyl’s developments in North Wales will remain closed, in line with the current guidance in Wales, but the company will continue with virtual consultations, viewings and reservations.

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An architects firm involved in a new Anfield development is providing free services to frontline organisations during the coronavirus outbreak.

WindsorPatania Architects is London-based, but has a Liverpool office which is involved in the £500,000 transformation of a former Anfield police station into a B&B and serviced accommodation development.

With 95% of employees being of Italian descent, the firm said COVID-19 has had a very real impact on everyone in the company. Accustomed to taking on at least one pro bono project each year, the team is keen to help.

Giovanni Patania, left, and Ryan Windsor

Across the country, hospitals, care homes, hotels, hostels, schools and more are working around the clock to repurpose buildings to accommodate social distancing and ensure self-isolation is possible.

WindsorPatania’s Ryan Windsor and Giovanni Patania decided to use excess capacity within their architectural firm to provide free design and layout optimisation services, along with infographics design, and translation services.

Giovanni Patania, RIBA architect and partner, said: “With many of our team being of Italian origin, the company is well aware of the immense challenges that healthcare providers face. The UK will, hopefully, avoid some of the scenarios we’ve heard about in Italy. Needless to say, our team is extremely motivated to contribute where we can.”

Ryan Windsor, partner, added: “This is a time to come together. To show solidarity and support frontline services and workers where we can.

“As an architectural practice, optimising layouts of spaces and buildings is where we can contribute. It’s as much, but also the least we can do.”

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According to Bury and Bolton law firm Clough & Willis many businesses in the North West are still confused over the furlough process, despite it being introduced by the Government more than two months ago and it being extended until October.

The findings came after the firm received extensive feedback from companies in the region which access Employers Advantage – its employment law and HR service – and from the increasing number of enquiries from other employers which have contacted the team for advice.

The issues now causing the most concern are around how the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will work in practice – especially the recent announcement that there will be greater flexibility to allow some workers to return part-time initially, and whether workers can use, or should be made to use, their holiday entitlements while furloughed.

Chris Macwilliam

Businesses are also worried about the lack of clear and concise guidance around what health and safety measures need to be put in place once employees do start to return to work, while distressed companies fear that that once the furlough scheme ends, they will need to make redundancies and are seeking advice on redundancy planning and procedure which, if handled incorrectly, could lead to a surge in tribunal claims.

Chris Macwilliam, partner and head of the employment team at Clough & Willis, said: “There’s no doubt the launch of the CJRS has helped millions of people, and its recent extension was almost universally welcomed. However, the Government must act quickly and give firms clarity on a number of the core issues that our research has highlighted.”

He added: “Business have been battered and what they need now is the detail so they can effectively plan their strategies for the next six to 12 months.

“I’m sure we’ll see an increase in redundancies and job losses over the coming year which will be sad, but the Government must do more to work with industry if we want to keep those numbers to a minimum.

“A continued lack of practical information will drive even more uncertainty and that’s a damaging combination, so I would urge the Government to listen to the genuine concerns of business owners and give them the reassurance and clarity they so desperately need.”

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A challenger bank has pledged added support for professional landlords across the country amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Redwood Bank, which has a Warrington-based operation, has vowed to continue increasing its lending and, in particular, is keen to help professional landlords with residential investment opportunities, with new rates starting from 3.99% plus base rate.

In addition, the Bank has announced it will consider loan-to-values (LTV) up to 65% of the value of the residential properties owned by the professional landlords, using desk top valuations, which have been introduced as a temporary measure so that social distancing guidelines can be adhered to.

The Bank has also released figures which show the average loan size of its lending to residential landlords has increased by around 68%. In 2018, each loan was worth an average of £299,000, whereas in 2019 the average had increased to £502,000.

Gary Wilkinson

Gary Wilkinson, chief executive and co-founder of Redwood Bank, said: “During these challenging times people need stability, reliability and assurance, which is why Redwood Bank has been quick to reach out to professional landlords to offer support.

“Our reputation within the professional landlord sector has grown, and people trust us and want us to get involved in supporting the development of their business.

“Being a dynamic Bank we were able to move quickly in our COVID-19 response. We have a strong appetite to lend and Redwood’s attention will remain on continuing to deliver excellence to all our customers. We remain passionate about supporting residential landlords and helping them to navigate this ever-changing financial and business landscape.”

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