People: Brabners; Counter Context; Zerum Consult; Roma Finance; Gledhill; Harrison Drury

John Spofforth, left, and Nik White

Following one of its most active years to date, the corporate team at independent law firm Brabners is targeting further growth following the appointment of John Spofforth as partner.

John joins from Liverpool firm O’Connors, where he headed up its corporate practice. He brings with him 20 years of experience in leading domestic and cross-border corporate transactions across a range of sectors, as well as a specialism in advising high growth and family-owned businesses both in the North West and nationally.

His appointment follows an outstanding 12 months for the firm’s 40-strong corporate team which saw it treble its deal count in 2021, advising on 139 transactions – representing a combined £1.3bn worth of deals.

Nik White, managing partner at Brabners, said: “John is one of the North West’s best known corporate lawyers, and brings with him extensive experience in leading strategic sales and acquisitions that will make him a valuable addition to the team.

“Our corporate practice, which is among the largest in the region, has gone from strength to strength over the past 12 months, as we seek to expand our practice and support clients with both a national and international outlook. John’s appointment will help us to build on this momentum as the deals market continues to rebound from the pandemic.”

John Spofforth said: “The North West’s M&A market has undoubtedly enjoyed a healthy past 12 months, as businesses responding to the pandemic look to consolidate their operations or target growth through buy and build strategies or shareholders seek an exit. This presents huge opportunities for business owners and investors across the region.”


Specialist strategic communications agency Counter Context has bolstered its position in Manchester and the North West with a new office base in Ancoats and an addition to its senior team.

The agency, which specialises in supporting high profile regeneration, transport and utilities projects, is increasingly in demand in the North West. Building on more than a decade of work which has seen Counter Context support key regeneration schemes including NOMA, Victoria North and the Co-op Live Arena, the agency has more recently added Manchester Life, Investec and Canal & River Trust to its client list.

Ian Thompson

As well as the new base, Ian Thompson joined Counter Context at the end of 2021, as a senior account manager to work full time on Manchester projects. Ian has more than 10 years’ experience as a skilled consultation and engagement practitioner, having worked previously for Dialogue by Design, Jacobs and Soundings on a range of high profile and sensitive development projects.

Ian said: “I’ve always believed that quality engagement can help shape great places, so it’s great to be involved in some of the projects transforming the city I call home.”

Harriet Knowles, director at Counter Context and lead for Manchester, said: “It is fitting that after a decade of working on some of Manchester’s most significant regeneration projects, we’ve now moved into the heart of Ancoats, a place that epitomises how successful regeneration can blend the old with the new and create genuine community.”


Zerum Consult, the planning, project management and cost management consultancy, has announced the recent expansion of its Manchester-based team following its recent successes on multiple schemes.

Danny Cremen joins after recently relocating from Cork, Ireland, to Manchester. Danny will be working on the major development of Sweet Street in Leeds. Meghan Gleeson joins Danny at Zerum Planning as an assistant planner and will be assisting with the proposed development of Water Lane, Leeds.

Both Danny and Meghan will also be working on the major development of Middlewood Locks in Salford, the comprehensive redevelopment of Wigan Galleries and the flagship development of St Michaels in Manchester city centre.

Zerum has also seen growth in both its project management and cost management divisions, with the recent appointment of Jonathan Mitchell, quantity surveyor. Jonathan has previously worked for Renaker so brings a wealth of knowledge from the residential sector and will be working on the delivery of schemes in Essex, Warrington and Manchester.

Most recently, Joe Holden has been appointed as graduate project manager and looks forward to furthering his knowledge while supporting the team and will assist with the delivery of a residential portfolio of developments throughout the UK.


Manchester-based Roma Finance has announced the appointment of three new directors. Steve Smith has been appointed sales director, Michael Allison as operations director and Matthew Severs will become finance director, replacing Keith Richardson who becomes CFO.

Steve Smith

All three are internal appointments following an uplift of more than 95% in business written over the past four months of 2021.

Steve originally joined Roma in 2019 as business development manager, becoming national sales manager in May 2020 and head of sales in June 2021. He will now continue to roll out his successful sales strategy as sales director to take the business forward on a further increased trajectory.

Michael Allison

Michael joined as head of transformational change in May 2021, from Together, where he worked for 13 of his outstanding 21 years in the finance industry. He will lead the pioneering bionic transformational programme and CSR strategy.

Matthew has been with the business for just over one year, joining as financial controller.

Matthew Severs

Steve Smith said: “I am thrilled to have been given this next opportunity within the business. We are all focused on delivering the best possible experience for everyone who works with us, and we are all aligned in our goals and what we want the business, our partners, our customers and our team to achieve. It is a very exciting time to be at Roma.”

Scott Marshall, managing director, said: “I have said this before, but I have never been as excited about the future of Roma as I am right now. We have fantastic people in every department and this is the perfect time to create this organisational structure with inspirational and innovative leaders. Steve, Michael and Matt have all demonstrated their skills and commitment to the business and this is largely why we are now in such a fantastic position.”


Gledhill, a Blackpool-based manufacturer of hot water and heating solutions, has appointed Neil Thompson as sales director.

Neil brings more than 20 years of experience in the UK plumbing and heating manufacturing sector to the business and most recently held the position of sales director at both OSO Hotwater and Heatrae Sadia, Megaflo.

He takes over the role from Neil Overton, who spent four years with the company and will remain in the business into 2022 to support the transition.

Neil Thompson

Gledhill employs more than 200 people nationwide. Founded almost 100 years ago, in 2015 the business was acquired by Groupe Atlantic, an international manufacturer of thermal comfort solutions. Groupe Atlantic has more than 5,900 employees worldwide, with 20 factories across Europe distributing products to more than 100 countries.

Neil Thompson said: “Gledhill has achieved enviable growth over recent years and established excellent partnerships with merchants and buying groups.

“I’m looking forward to working alongside key stakeholders across the industry again to establish our position as the UK’s market leader for hot water cylinders and develop a strategy to further increase demand and support our loyal installers.”


Rural and agricultural specialist Joseph Mitchell has been appointed to the property litigation team at North West law firm Harrison Drury.

Joseph joins Harrison Drury’s Kendal office as an associate solicitor having previously worked at Roythornes Solicitors based in the Midlands where he specialised in rural and agricultural disputes and property disputes.

Colin Fenny with Joseph Mitchell

As part of Harrison Drury’s property litigation team, Joseph will act for both landlords and tenants in agricultural tenancy disputes including succession claims, forfeiture, surrenders and termination.

With extensive experience in real estate practice including dealing with boundary disputes, easements and enforcement of covenants, Joseph will also act on behalf of the firm’s clients advising commercial landlords and tenants as well as homeowners in residential property disputes.

Colin Fenny, head of Harrison Drury’s property and construction dispute resolution team, said: “Joseph brings valuable experience within the rural sector and his addition to the Kendal team and the firm as a whole helps put us at the forefront of providing specialist legal advice to one of the key sectors contributing to the North West and Cumbria economies.

”Joseph has already made an excellent start in supporting our rural clients and we look forward to him settling into a great career and future at Harrison Drury.”

Jackie Bate with Kathryn Spratt

A member of the Agricultural Law Association, Joseph said: “From my very first meeting with the team at Harrison Drury it was clear that it was the perfect move for me. Everyone has been very friendly and have made me feel part of team from day one, especially considering I have relocated from the Midlands.

“I look forward to extending the expertise that the firm already has in the agricultural and rural sector with my experience in dealing with land and property disputes as well as other real estate and property litigation matters.”

Harrison Drury’s Kendal office also welcomes plot sales executive Kathryn Spratt, who joins from Oldfields Legal in Carnforth where she managed the residential conveyancing department. With more than 30 years’ experience in the legal sector, Kathryn has a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives qualification and will be working alongside Jackie Bate, head of plot sales for Harrison Drury, based at the firm’s Kendal office.