North West Business Briefs: Blackpool Airport; Fred Perry; Studio RBA; Datastor Systems; Armstrong Watson

Blackpool Airport, owned by Blackpool Council, is to bring the management and day-to-day airport operations back in-house.

Following a lengthy review and search to appoint a new operational management contractor, Blackpool Airport Operations Ltd (BAOL), Blackpool Council’s wholly owned subsidiary, has decided to take the operational licences back into its own name. Transfer of the CAA licences to operate the airport into BAOL Company’s name and under its direct control, is an early step in achieving the airport’s longer term goals which are: To maximise opportunities for growth; to achieve a greater level of control and flexibility to take sound investment decisions; to be more efficient and cost effective; to ensure a long-term, sustainable future for one of England’s oldest airports and a key strategic asset for the Fylde Coast.

This arrangement, where the licences are held by the airport owner rather than the management contractor, is the norm in the aviation industry and brings Blackpool into line with its peers in the sector.

BAOL is working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for this process to be completed later in the year, at which point the contract with the current licence holder, Regional and City Airports (RCA) will expire.

Cllr Campbell, chair of the board at Blackpool Airport Operations Ltd, said: “The tender process for operational and management contracts has now come to an end and the board has made the decision to bring the airport licences in-house. BAOL and Blackpool Council thank RCA for all their hard work over the past few years and are now working with them to facilitate a smooth transition of airport operations.”

Blackpool Council reacquired Blackpool Airport from Balfour Beatty in September 2017 for £4.25m via its ownership of Blackpool Airport Operations Ltd and Blackpool Airport Property Ltd, to save it from the risk of permanent closure and to secure its long term future as part of the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone. To date Blackpool Council has invested nearly £2m in the upgrade and maintenance of essential infrastructure, with further significant investment planned.


Afflecks Palace

British heritage brand Fred Perry is set to launch a new flagship store in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on the ground floor of Bruntwood Works’ iconic Afflecks building.

Relocating from their shop on Police Street, just off King Street, Fred Perry’s new retail store and showroom will occupy a larger 2,820 sq ft space in the double corner unit on the junction of Oldham Street and Church Street. The store is expected to open this summer.

Oldham Street has experienced a revival as a key destination for lifestyle and fashion retailers in recent years, attracting brands like Ace and Tate and Carharrt, as well as independent boutiques. Part of Bruntwood Works’ vision is to invest in Afflecks’ presence on Oldham Street with iconic names like Fred Perry complementing the small, independent traders within the building itself.

Chris Middleton, senior retail manager at Bruntwood Works, said: “The addition of this much-loved brand will bolster the retail community in the Northern Quarter neighbourhood, building on Oldham Street’s offering as a lifestyle-led shopping destination.”

Richard Gilmore, Fred Perry managing director, said: “The Northern Quarter has no shortage of strong associations to ground-breaking music and subcultural style – something we continue to champion. Our retail spaces aren’t just shops, and we’re looking forward to sharing what we do with the Manchester community as part of an exciting continuation of Fred Perry and Afflecks’ mutual commitment to heritage and innovation.”


Mill Lane plans

A fast-growing Liverpool architecture practice says it has seen a ‘strong up-tick’ in workflow as the end of lockdown nears.

Studio RBA has submitted its latest two developments for planners’ comments or approval and says it has another 12 on the drawing board. Managing director, Kenny McNaughton, said: “Someone’s turned the tap on. It looks like the ‘bounce-back’ people have been predicting is real.”

Two schemes have been submitted to planners, both for a joint venture between Reciprocal Solutions and Shape Land & Property. The first is for 15 affordable homes on Mill Lane in the Old Swan district of Liverpool, next to the former Glasshouse pub. Pre-application discussions with Liverpool city council are now under way.

The second scheme is before the planning committee at Blackburn with Darwen Council for approval and comprises 20 affordable homes in Cabin End. Shape Engineering is the structural engineer on both schemes.

Mr McNaughton said: “We’re set for a busy spring, and from conversations with peers in the industry it looks like everyone else is, too.”


Paul Tyrer

Valsoft, a Montreal-based company specialising in the acquisition and development of vertical market software businesses, has acquired Congleton-based Datastor Systems, for an undisclosed sum.

Datastor is a supplier of process control and information management solutions, delivering systems in the UK and exporting to locations across the globe. The business will continue to operate independently with its existing management from its Congleton office.

Bill Wright, Datastor Systems chief executive, said: “Having been a successful independent company for over 40 years, providing ‘mission critical’ software solutions to the manufacturing sector, it was time to consider a succession plan. We were delighted when Valsoft Corporation approached us to become part of their family of companies. Collectively we can make the process control division a real success.”

Joseph Khoubbieh, head of M&A at Valsoft, said: “Datastor has built a stellar reputation in the industry and we look forward to supporting their long-term growth. We believe the acquisition will bring long-term benefits to both its customers and team.”

Datastor was represented by Paul Tyrer, a partner in the corporate group at SAS Daniels (Congleton). Valsoft was represented by Richard Wrigley of Shakespeare Martineau (Birmingham).


Paul Dickson

Carlisle-based Armstrong Watson has strengthened its aim to be the ‘go to’ accountancy firm for family and owner-managed businesses across the north after it acquired Hexham family practice Patricia J Arnold & Co, for an undisclosed sum.

The merger, which took effect on March 1, 2021, sees Armstrong Watson’s Hexham office become its largest in the North East, almost doubling the size of its practice in the town and follows shortly after the business expanded in Newcastle.

Patricia J Arnold & Co owner, Tricia Arnold, has joined Armstrong Watson as a consultant, along with 14 staff who will continue to provide tax and accounting services to existing clients. She said: “I believe clients will continue to receive quality, personal service and for some it will give them the benefit of being able to pull in the skills of a larger firm. The opportunities that exist at Armstrong Watson will benefit those clients very significantly.”

Paul Dickson, Armstrong Watson managing partner and CEO, said: “This merger combines two firms of similar culture, with complementary practice strengths and sector expertise. We hope that by offering an increasing range of specialists and advisers, we will ensure that we continue to provide local businesses with tailored, proactive support and advice essential for profit and growth.”

Armstrong Watson’s 16-strong office portfolio continues to grow across the north of England and Scotland, both organically and through acquisitions. In little over 12 months, the firm has acquired Eura Audit Northallerton, moved its west Cumbria office from Workington to Cockermouth and expanded into new premises in Newcastle, just two years after opening its first office in the city.