Property round-up: Equans; Buttress; Barnfield Construction; Aztec Interiors; HE Simm Group; Whittles; AKM Homes

Regeneration and decarbonisation specialist, Equans, has partnered with Onward Homes to deliver decarbonisation works to 126 homes across Lancashire.

The work has been secured through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), a Government-led scheme which provides vital funding to support with the decarbonisation of eligible housing stock to an EPC rating of C.

Work will include full external, cavity wall and loft insulation to the homes across Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, as well as ventilation improvements, bringing the number of features implemented across the board to 504.

The scheme is set out to improve the thermal efficiency of the homes, in line with the Government’s targets of Net Zero by 2050. This will, in turn, deliver cost-effective carbon savings while also providing the communities involved with more comfortable, healthier homes.

This follows on from another successful partnership between Equans and Onward, which helped decarbonise 132 homes in Runcorn. A total of 528 energy-efficiency measures were implemented, which will save more than 5,000 tonnes of CO 2 across the neighbourhood over the lifetime of the measures installed.

Neil Warburton, Director of Regeneration and Sustainability at Equans, said: “I’m really pleased that we’re partnering with Onward once again to deliver important decarbonisation works across Lancashire.”

Sandy Livingstone, Executive Director for Property at Onward, said: “We identified a number of homes across Lancashire that required improvements to enhance their overall energy efficiency. The funding secured through the SDHF will enable us to deliver major improvements that will result in homes that are more affordable to rent and live in for our customers, and are more sustainable as we address the challenges of climate change.”


Buttress has completed work on Showtown, Blackpool’s new museum of fun and entertainment.

Housed on the first floor of the Sands Centre, on the town’s iconic seafront promenade, the museum celebrates Blackpool’s role as the UK’s most popular seaside destination and the part it’s played in the development of British popular culture.

As architects to the project, Buttress has led a multi-disciplinary design team to bring the vision for the museum to life. This has included working alongside exhibition designer Casson Mann to integrate the architectural designs with the exhibition and interpretation designs to create a seamless new experience.

The new museum features six vibrant, interactive exhibitions that allow visitors to discover more about Blackpool’s links with magic, dance, comedy, live variety, illumination, circus, and sideshows. The new museum also includes a temporary exhibition gallery which has been designed to meet Government Indemnity Standards. This will allow Showtown to display loaned items from public and private individuals or collections within the UK and abroad.

Elizabeth Moss, chief executive of Showtown, said: “The lights are on, the curtain is up and we can’t wait to welcome people to Showtown. The opening of the museum is a significant moment for us and for Blackpool. We have reimagined how a museum should be, through our innovative displays of Blackpool’s own rich collection shown alongside key loans from international institutions and the performers themselves.”

Neal Charlton, director at Buttress, said: “In developing Showtown, we’ve delivered more than a building; we’ve created a new landmark to Blackpool’s cultural legacy.”

Showtown opened to the public on March 15, and is expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors each year.


Barnfield Blackburn, the joint venture development company between Barnfield Developments and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, have completed Mill Bank Business Park and welcomed final occupiers to phase 2 of the development.

Main contractor, Barnfield Construction, the construction arm of the Barnfield Group, completed the build of seven units totalling 35,000 sq ft in November 2023, after £1.4m of funding was secured by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through the Growth Deal Programme.

The new commercial units are located on Eccleshill Road, just off junction four of the M65. The former Lower Darwen Paper Mill site was acquired by Barnfield Blackburn in 2019 and was one of the first of several sites acquired by the development JV.

Tracy Clavell-Bate, Head of Development and Acquisition at Barnfield Group, said: “It is great to see this phase of the project complete. Four out of the seven units were pre-sold off plan without a spade in the ground.”

Cllr Phil Riley, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, said: “What a success story this is. We’ve been able to take a long-time derelict site – a real eyesore – and create new jobs, new homes and improved roads in that area, too.

Pendle Doors occupies a 15,000 sq ft unit to support its continued growth. Managing director, Ryan Anderson, said: “In 2007 we relocated to a 33,000 sq ft manufacturing facility on Moss Fold Road, Darwen. This was a huge turning point for our business as we acquired CNC technology. Since then, we have implemented a strategy for continued growth and our additional unit on Mill Bank Business Park will be a huge facilitator of this. We employ 20 staff from the site and we plan to double in size over the next three years.”

Trans-Cool Solutions has also taken a 10,000 sq ft unit and from its new base the 15-strong team of specialists refrigerate more than 50 home delivery vehicles per week for clients including ASDA and Sainsburys. Co-founder and managing director, Paul Williamson, said “In 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic there was unprecedented demand for ASDA’s temperature-controlled transport fleet and we were working around the clock to refrigerate their vehicles. Since then the demand from other retailers has boomed and we have been awarded further contracts.”

Debbie Francis, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “Supporting the infrastructure and facilities needed to enable local business growth has always been central to the LEP’s investment strategy. Mill Bank Business Park now being complete, and fully occupied, is testament to how targeted finance from funds like the Growth Deal can help to create new jobs and help companies like Pendle Doors and Trans-Cool to expand their operations.”

The completed Mill Bank Business Park is also home to Howdens Joinery and Halo Accident and Repairs working in partnership with Liverpool Victoria Insurance.

Trevor Dawson and Taylor Weaver acted as joint agents for the commercial development.


Iain Peacock

Aztec Interiors has secured £5m of new work for the first half of the year, including a £m full fire strategy programme of works at Rainhill high School in Liverpool.

The Liverpool-based company is building on a strong 2023 that saw the positive results of a series of major developments including the appointment of industry expert Colin Clayton to the board, the acquisition of a specialist M& firm and the launch of its fire strategy company, Fire Doors and Frames.

Iain Peacock, Director at Aztec, said: “We have invested our time, energy and resources into the careful restructure of the business during the past two years and it’s at this point that we are realising the positive outcome of these widespread efforts.”

He added: “We are also seeing higher levels of negotiated work and joint ventures and are steering away from traditional tendering by developing long term partnerships with clients. This really is a new era for Aztec, as we not only consolidate our position in the market place for existing services, but begin to penetrate new business in the fire protection sector.”

Fellow director, Tony Pyper, said: “2023 was a great year in terms of business growth
and development. We see no sign of this level of activity slowing down for 2024, and are
approaching the end of quarter one with a rapidly growing order book.”


X1 Manchester Waters

The HE Simm Group has successfully completed works on the third block of luxury apartments at X1 Manchester Waters.

‘Block C’ of the Pomona Island development has opened with the state-of-the-art facility offering a selection of Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments across 14 floors.

Built by Vermont, for client X1, Manchester Waters will eventually bring together 742 apartments across five residential blocks. The company has now successfully delivered the MEP installation at the first three – a total of 406 apartments.

The apartments are part of the Pomona Strand Masterplan, located between the successful Manchester residential neighbourhood of Castlefield and the prestigious Salford Quays development at MediaCity.

HE Simm Engineering provided Design & Build MEP, with sister company HESIS providing Fire & Security installation. The team became involved from concept, working with a wider design team – including the architect and structural engineers – to ensure a successful outcome across all three buildings.

Offering a modern living experience with the added luxury of selected apartments featuring balconies with picturesque waterside views, the development is situated on the thriving Pomona Island, boasting excellent connectivity to the city centre via the tram.

HE Simm Group has enjoyed a successful relationship with Vermont and X1 for more than a decade, with this project representing one of the last remaining large scale regeneration opportunities located close to the heart of Manchester.

Lee Smith, Operations Manager for the project, said: “With the construction landscape changing, this was, at times, a challenging project for all involved. That said, it’s testament to the team who collaboratively embraced the challenge and continued in the same vein as the previous two blocks, delivering an excellent, high quality scheme.”


CGI of Whittles building plans

A pioneering project to transform a derelict town centre building in Whitehaven into a state-of-art digital and gaming hub has appointed key partners to begin the programme of redevelopment.

Set to open in summer 2025, the digital and gaming hub will include a digital recording studio, cafe, esports and VR area and green screens that will be supported by several local partners in the former Whittles furniture store building on Duke Street in Whitehaven’s town centre.

Social impact property developers, BEC, has announced NORR as the architects and Summers Inman as the project management consultants.

BEC chief executive, Michael Pemberton, said: “It’s with great pleasure we announce the appointment of NORR and Summers Inman, respectively, to the digital and gaming hub project in Whitehaven. BEC has a well established relationship with both companies, and they have a track record of delivering for us.”

Architect and director at NORR, Robin Stewart, said: “Redeveloping this listed building is another vital step in sustainably revitalising important local buildings to benefit the Whitehaven community.”

Associate director at Summers Inman, John Harvey, said: “Working with the full BEC delivery team and our fellow design consultants, the Hub will provide essential training and upskilling to encourage the development of future digital and tech leaders.”

BEC said construction will start in summer later this year.


On behalf of Halton Housing, Liverpool-based AKM Homes has finalised the development of more than 30 apartments on the site of a former dairy in Runcorn, located on Sewell Street.

The scheme comprises 33 affordable apartments including 17 one-bedroom, and 16 two-bedroom flats.

Funding for the scheme was secured from Homes England and is the first delivered by AKM Homes using the Affordable Homes Programme for 2021-2026.

Law firm, Freeths, advised AKM Homes on the redevelopment, led by real estate director Mark Alexander. The team had been working with AKM Homes since construction started in September 2022.

Mark Alexander said: “As a long standing client, it’s been great to see this deal through from inception to completion which will see much needed affordable housing brought to an empty, unused site which had become a nuisance in the locality for fly tipping and anti-social behaviour.

“The land also had some very novel issues which would have been very difficult to overcome, had there not been such a ‘joined-up’ approach between all the parties involved in this scheme. It was a great example of everyone pulling the same direction to achieve the development of much needed modern and affordable residential accommodation in the locality.”

Andy Walker, AKM managing director, said: “I am very grateful to Mark and his team for the way they managed this transaction – often having to provide innovative solutions to some of the challenges presented by this site, without which this scheme may not have come forward.”

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