NW business briefs: ACC Liverpool; Sportive Breaks; Instinct Resourcing; Merseyrail; Hardwood Sales; Onward Homes

ACC Liverpool event campus

The ACC Liverpool Group has been awarded £1.4m of funding in its latest step towards achieving net zero status by 2030.

The organisation, operator of the M&S Bank Arena, Exhibition Centre Liverpool and convention centre, is set to receive the funding from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme which is delivered by Salix Finance. The money, from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, has been awarded to Liverpool City Council as owners of the campus.

The money will be used to replace hot water boilers in the arena and adjoining convention centre – installed when the venue opened in 2008 – with air sourced heat pumps. The project is currently expected to directly save more than 4,200 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime, in addition to reducing running and maintenance costs.

Eddie dos Santos, director of operations and venue management at The ACC Liverpool Group, said: “Environment, sustainability and climate action are key focuses for our Social Value Impact Plan which we launched in 2021. We have already made significant progress across the campus with a number of initiatives and are striving to implement as many changes as we can to make events that we host as sustainable as possible for organisers and visitors. This project will enable us to make massive reductions in carbon emissions from the existing equipment and reduce our annual running costs.”

The organisation – which recently installed LED lights across the campus – aims to maintain zero to landfill status, support the development of super low carbon events and reduce single-use plastics. Liverpool City Council, owners of the campus, nominated The ACC Liverpool Group to receive the funding for the development which will be installed before the end of the year and will not affect any events taking place.

Council leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, who leads on Liverpool City Council’s Climate Action and Net Zero programmes, said: “Every effort will make a difference, no matter how big or by whom – starting today. We owe it to future generations to do all we can to prevent the climate crisis becoming a global catastrophe.”


Manchester-based sports travel business, Sportive Breaks, has announced plans to launch in North America.

The firm offers bespoke premium travel packages for cyclists looking to take part in the world’s most prestigious grand tours, cycling classics and weekenders. Packages include cycling tours, training camps, hospitality and VIP experiences, inviting customers to experience some of the world’s most popular cycling events and training destinations.

Following the firm’s recent expansion into Australia, the team at Sportive Breaks will now operate in North America. A new website will offer a seamless booking experience, and the launch also sees the development of a dedicated USA office based at the Boston, MA, home of Marathon Tours & Travel, from which customers can enjoy local and informed customer support for any queries they might have about their booking.

The launch offers customers in the USA access to the largest collection of European cycling events including Gran Fondo, Giro D’Italia and Haute Route Alps, with bespoke packages available for the most immersive travel experiences. The Sportive Breaks team is also the official fan travel and spectator experiences partner of the UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow and around Scotland.

Director, Alex De Waard, said: “This is another really significant development for Sportive Breaks. The USA market is a hugely important one for our team and our American office will be led by an incredible team of experts who have unrivalled experience in the industry. It’s exciting to see the Sportive Breaks brand continue to grow, and I very much look forward to seeing the business go from strength to strength in the years to come.”


Mike Ward, Liz Gallagher, Ben Bradley, Matt Owens

A specialist recruitment company has become an employee-owned business as it heads for another record year, with turnover on track to top £11m.

Manchester-based Instinct Resourcing was founded in 2011 by Mike Ward and Matt Owens and has 18 staff members. The company, which has doubled turnover since 2019, recruits for temporary and permanent digital learning and learning technology roles across the public and private sectors, and has a strong presence in the education sector. Mike and Matt said they received several approaches for the business and considered a range of options, including a trade sale and private equity investment, before choosing to transfer ownership of Instinct to an employee ownership trust to safeguard the futures of its team.

Accounting and business advisory firm Hurst advised Instinct’s shareholders on the transition to employee ownership. The Hurst team comprised partner Liz Gallagher, who heads the firm’s tax advisory team, associate tax manager Sam Ryan and corporate finance partner Ben Bradley.

Liz said: “Since its inception, Mike and Matt have steadily grown Instinct into one of the most successful specialist recruitment businesses in the North West. This success has been, in large part, due to the quality of the dedicated people employed in the business. This is why Mike and Matt decided on the employee ownership route – to add stability and ensure that Instinct would continue to thrive and prosper with the business now in the hands of the staff.”

Paul Johnson and Hollie Walsh, of law firm Ward Hadaway, provided legal advice to the shareholders. Ian Riggs, national head of corporate at law firm Hill Dickinson, advised the newly-created employee ownership trust.


Plans for Headbolt Lane Station

Merseyrail services will be partially reinstated on the Kirkby line from Monday, August 14, with trains running every 30 minutes and calling at all stations between Kirkby and Liverpool Central.

The reintroduction follows a period of six weeks’ engineering work as part of the preparations for the new station at Headbolt Lane. To allow further driver training ahead of the opening of the new station, the line between Kirkby and Liverpool Central will be served by two services per hour.

From Monday to Saturday, the first train will depart Kirkby for Liverpool Central at 05:41. Trains will then depart at 11 and 41 minutes past each hour until 23:11, after which the final service will run at 23:31. The first train from Liverpool Central to Kirkby will depart at 06:05. Trains will then depart at 35 and five minutes past each hour until 23:35, after which the final service will run at 23:55.

On Sundays the first train from Kirkby to Liverpool Central will be at 08:11, followed by 08:41. Trains will then depart at 11 and 41 minutes past each hour until 23:11. A final service will run at 23:31. The first train from Liverpool Central to Kirkby on Sundays will be at 08:05. Trains will then depart at 35 and five minutes past each hour until 23:35, after which the final service will run at 23:55.

The aim is to complete the further driver training to achieve full resumption of services as soon as possible, with the current expectation being that the half hourly timetable arrangement will be in place for around three weeks.


Hardwood Sales solar panels

A Liverpool-based hardwood importer is future-proofing its energy costs, with £300,000 of hire purchase funding from Lloyds Bank, that will enable it to save more than 100 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Hardwood Sales is a specialist hardwood importer, supplying timber for some iconic projects including Churchill’s War Office, the Royal Academy of Music and London’s Shard building. It has used the loan from Lloyds Bank to invest in 1,000 longi PV solar panels, allowing the business to start producing 65% of its own electricity, becoming more energy independent and significantly reducing costs.

The global company is based on a nine-acre site with a newly-built 100,000 sq ft warehouse, plus a manufacturing plant. Five-day work weeks mean that surplus electricity is often generated at weekends, and the business sells this energy back to the grid – helping grow profits further, while contributing to the diversification of the UK’s energy mix and reducing strain on the grid when demand is high.

The solar panels have helped Hardwood Sales futureproof its energy costs, meaning the money that would have been tied up in rising energy prices can now be invested in creating jobs and upskilling the workforce. The savings made in the business so far have allowed it to commit to the building of an additional manufacturing plant starting September, boosting future growth prospects.

Tony Collins, Hardwood Sales managing director, said: “Rising energy costs have been putting pressure on businesses over the last year, and the security that these solar panels have provided us with has been a real relief. Not only have they allowed us to save money on our energy bills, which can be reinvested into the business to help it grow, they’ve also given us a stake in the UK’s ambitions for net zero by 2050.”


In-person sessions at Florence Court

Onward Homes, the Liverpool-based housing association, has partnered with Lloyds Bank to deliver free in-person digital skills classes for residents living in its sheltered schemes in Merseyside.

The pilot programme has been rolled out to three of the housing association’s over-65s schemes to help close the digital gap often encountered by older residents. During the sessions, the Lloyds Bank Academy provided expert-led training on internet basics, how to use tablet devices, as well as digital apps and features such as social media and video calling. Other practical tips included online banking safety, sending emails, keeping in touch with friends and family through video calls and social media, and being cybersecure.

More than 20 residents signed up for the course, each receiving a free tablet and, through Lloyds Bank Academy’s partnership with Vodafone, 20GB of free data for six months.

Andrew Kidds, director of customer experience and digital at Onward Homes, said: “Technology can open so many doors and we are so pleased to have teamed up with Lloyds Bank to deliver these in-person sessions at our Merseyside sheltered schemes, helping our customers stay connected and feel more confident online. We hope to extend this offer out across our neighbourhoods and will continue to work with our partners to ensure our customers have access to the support they need, in a way that works for them.”

Melanie Russell, relationship director for Social Housing at Lloyds Bank said: “Building digital skills helps people become more confident online and can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family who don’t live nearby. The Lloyds Bank Academy gives people the support they need to stay safe, while enjoying the benefits being online has to offer.”