North West business briefs: Sanctuary Housing; Wirral Chamber; Blankstone Sington; Handy Ladies; The Zone

Sanctuary Housing and British Gas are carrying out a heat pump installation project across the North West to reduce energy bills for local people and deliver a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

Beginning with homes in Cheshire, over the next six weeks more than 70 homes across the North West will have their existing heating systems replaced with low carbon alternatives.

Each home will receive an air source heat pump, complete with a smart cylinder, intelligent heating control and new radiators and pipework. The aim is to bring them up to an EPC rating of C or above. The project is part of a nationwide scheme which will see sustainable heating systems installed at nearly 600 of Sanctuary’s social housing properties across the country.

Donna Williams, director of sustainability and climate change for Worcester-based Sanctuary, said: “We have a responsibility to ensure our tenants live in warm homes that are cost-effective to heat, reducing fuel poverty and increasing quality of life. Our energy management team continuously monitors energy consumption across our portfolio and identified an opportunity for this project in Tilston to improve the energy efficiency of some of our homes and identify any areas for future improvements.”

Carl Vaughan, business customer delivery manager at British Gas, said: “This project has huge potential to reduce energy bills for local residents, while improving local air quality and making a significant contribution towards reaching net zero.”

The project is being funded by Sanctuary, the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Warm Homes Fund. The smart cylinder in each property features full onboard monitoring, to measure the system’s performance and demonstrate that the requirements for funding are being met. The installations have been carried out by British Gas and its specialist social housing division, P H Jones, in partnership with manufacturers including Mitsubishi and Stelrad.



Wirral Chamber of Commerce is helping sole traders become involved in the Government’s £2bn Kickstart programme, as an approved gateway provider for the scheme bringing benefits to businesses and young people in facing up to the challenges and economic effects of COVID-19.

The scheme was launched in September 2020, and as of March 2021, more than 500 placement opportunities have been available within the 100+ companies of all sectors which are currently participating in creating six month work placement positions, including roles in areas of finance, customer services, grounds people, teaching and marketing, engineering and hospitality.

Wirral Chamber identified that there was a potential gap as sole traders and partnerships could not apply for the scheme, and as such this would mean that these exclusions meant a huge number of missed opportunities. The chamber can offer access to the scheme as it is also an approved Kickstart Gateway Plus provider – only one of two organisations nationwide.

This means that it employs the young people and then ‘places’ them within those businesses or organisations which are able to offer work placement opportunities, with the hope that longer term some may eventually translate from placement into permanent employment.

Chamber CEO, Paula Basnett, said: “This is such a hugely significant scheme. Over the past 12 months the pandemic has had a critical impact on the employment prospects of many, but in particular for those 18 to 24-year olds. We must develop work and skill opportunities and through the Kickstart scheme SMEs, that may have been excluded, can provide much needed opportunities to young people.”


Neil Blankstone

Blankstone Sington, the Liverpool-based independently owned investment manager and stockbroker, has become the latest firm to be approved for admission as a trading member of IPSX, the International Property Securities Exchange, which operates the world’s first regulated securities exchange dedicated to commercial property.

Its trading members are firms which have been vetted and approved to support secondary market liquidity and provide investors with access to the market.

Blankstone Sington join existing trading members including Canaccord Genuity, Panmure Gordon, Peel Hunt, WHIreland and The Share Centre. IPSX Trading members play a key role in the exchange and are crucial in helping investors to buy and sell shares in IPSX securities, changing the way that investors can invest in commercial real estate.

Alan Ramsay, UK chief executive at IPSX, said: “We are delighted to welcome Blankstone Sington as a trading member to the Exchange. The firm is a well known and long established firm of independent wealth managers outside London. At a time when markets are undoubtedly challenging for many investors, we look forward to working closely with Blankstone Sington to continue building our momentum in allowing investors the opportunity to be involved in investing into the real estate sector.”

Neil Blankstone, director at Blankstone Sington, said: “As a Recognised Investment Exchange, IPSX is an innovation that we welcome, and we are delighted to be confirmed as a trading member of the exchange. With some high quality IPOs in the pipeline, real estate investments via IPSX could well become the norm in a client’s portfolio. At a local level the added appeal of being able to invest directly into a well known building in your town or city, with known occupants, is something we feel compelled to offer.”


Hayley Fallon

Cheadle cleaning company, Handy Ladies, has swapped the mop and bucket for pots and pans, launching a new initiative to provide free meals and food parcels to vulnerable clients throughout the pandemic.

When the cleaning team found themselves unable to conduct their usual home cleaning services due to lockdown restrictions, they decided to spend their time helping older people in the local community stay well as they shield, providing them with food deliveries and pre-cooked meals.

As Handy Ladies has been relying solely on donations of food, resources and volunteer delivery drivers, local home care company Home Instead Stockport has been supporting the organisation throughout the pandemic, helping the community get through this difficult time. Community relations manager at Home Instead Stockport, Hayley Fallon has been volunteering as a driver on weekdays.

With growing interest from the Stockport community, the demand for the Handy Ladies’ meals has skyrocketed to 180 free meals a day, reaching a record high of 720 a week. And Handy Ladies plans on running its operation post COVID and continuing its service to the local community.

Hayley said: “The Handy Ladies have truly been community champions throughout this pandemic, selflessly dedicating their free time to cooking and caring for the elderly and vulnerable in our local area. Their efforts so aligned with ours at Home Instead that we felt honoured to be able to help them in whatever ways we could. The ladies really appreciate all donations of food from the community which allow them to keep providing hot meals and food parcels to those who most need them. The Stockport community has really come together throughout the pandemic for a great cause.”


The Zone team

Lauren Caffrey has fulfilled a childhood dream with the opening this week of her own gym, The Zone, on Mill Lane Trade Park in Wavertree, as part of the ongoing easing of lockdown regulations.

Lauren, 23, dreamed of opening her own flagship gym at just 14 years old, and has now opened the doors of her New York City-inspired 2,000 sq ft gym, creating more than 20 jobs.

Having worked incredibly hard during all three of the UK’s lockdowns, and switching her in-person training to online, Lauren has successfully continued to grow her business and treble her clientele. She’s used all of her profits to open her gym after securing the venue on Christmas Eve 2020.

She said: “It’s been a rollercoaster since January as we’ve completely transformed Unit 10 to bring my vision to reality. I enlisted the help of Calvey Restoration who have been working on the site since the beginning of January and together we’ve built a second floor, a dedicated bootcamp room, a separate yoga studio and shower facilities and I couldn’t be happier and more proud of the results.

“Opening The Zone has been an incredible experience; extremely tough and stressful at times, but absolutely worth it and I’m so excited to welcome our first clients this week before we can open up our classes on 17th May.”