Friday, February 17, 2017

News: Planning milestone for £37m Gulliver's Valley development

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A rollercoaster of a journey in the redevelopment of the Pit House West site in Rotherham is the closest it has ever been to becoming a reality with the approval of detailed, deliverable, plans for a £37m leisure resort from an established company with its own finances already in place.

Rothbiz was first with the details when the full plans were submitted in October. The proposals, which will create around 400 jobs, will see Gulliver's buy approximately 250 acres from the Council. The restored former colliery and opencast site will be transformed into a year round destination aimed at 2 - 13 year olds and is set to include a theme park hub, woodland adventure centre, ecology and education centre, lodges, hotels and a holiday village.

Gulliver's, the operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes, has now secured unanimous approval from the planning board at Rotherham Council and is keen to begin work on site.

Due to its prominence, The National Planning Casework Unit will be given the opportunity to "call in" the application on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Gulliver's now has 21 days to wait for the decision of the Secretary of State on their application.

Following planning approval, the scheme is expected to be built over 12 - 15 years, the theme park would come first and further developments would follow afterwards.

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Julie Dalton, managing director of the Gulliver's group, said: "Everyone at Gulliver's is very pleased with the Council's decision which takes us to the next stage of the planning process.

"We are confident that the Secretary of State will recognise the enormous benefit of our plans to the Rother Valley area and the local community. Our plans would transform an area of Rother Valley that has been disused for many years."

Rotherham Council has long had ambitions for the greenbelt site to be transformed into a landmark leisure / tourism development on a regional, national and international scale. The reclamation of Brookhouse Colliery and incorporation into the Rother Valley Country Park to enhance its attraction as a regional facility was first mooted when the colliery operations closed in 1985. After purchasing the site from the Coal Authority, the council began the search for a developer in March 2002.

This is the third time the Council has sought interested from developers. Outline planning approval was granted for the £350m YES! Project in 2007 and updated plans were approved in September 2010.

Developers, Oak Holdings were dropped for a lack of progress and the £110m Visions of China project was the preferred choice of the authority in 2011. Having previously come forward for discussions with the Council in 2014, Gulliver's entered into an agreement to purchase the land from the Council in 2015 after the Visions of China project was also dropped.
Planning approval for 215,000 sq ft of buildings come with a number of conditions, including operating hours, and a £1.2m transport improvement scheme is already underway in the area.

Further details of the attractions set for Gulliver's Valley, including Liliput Castle, a log flume, Antelope, Pirate Coaster, Tower Ride, farm park and pet resort, can be found here.

Special circumstances for development in the Green Belt were agreed, namely the positive economic impact, and Gulliver's will enter a legal agreement to ensure that the hotels and accommodation will not come forward without the theme park elements.
Julie Dalton told members of the planning board: "As a family and a company we are committed to bringing forward the long-standing aspiration for a regional scale leisure and tourism attraction on the Rother Valley Country Park. Gulliver's is a sustainable family business with a proven track record for designing, building and running family entertainment developments, and have done for 39 years.

"We know exactly what families are looking for in a day out and a short break, and that is what we have designed into this resort. Pit House West is a very attractive site and we have put lots of time and energy into designing our attraction around the site so we can make best use of its natural assets.

"This will be the first of the Gulliver's sites to incorporate everything we have on our other sites, and it's got quite a few new elements that you don't see existing.

"This proposal gives us the opportunity to enhance both the leisure and tourist facilities within the borough and the proposals bring significant economic benefits."

Construction is anticipated to start in 2017 immediately after planning permission is granted.

The first phase of development (the main entrance and access roads, theme park hub and core parking) will be open in 2020.

Gulliver's Valley website

Images: Gulliver's


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News: Garnett Dickinson downed with £25m pension deficit

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Problems with an investment in a new press led to the administration of Rotherham print group, Garnett Dickinson, documents reveal.

And the administrator's proposals also show a pension scheme deficit of £25m listed amongst the unsecured creditors.

Jonny Marston and Howard Smith of KPMG, were appointed as joint administrators to the business on January 24 2017 after the business ran into cash flow difficulties due to operational issues.

The joint administrators confirmed that Garnett Dickinson was sold in a pre-pack deal to GD Web Offset Limited, a vehicle incorporated for the purposes of the acquisition.

Based in a £20m state-of-the-art facility in Manvers, the group specialises in large run multi pagination printing and customers include high profile monthly magazines and luxury catalogue brands.

Garnett Dickinson Print Ltd had a turnover of £17.2m and made an operating loss of just over a £1m in the year to September 30 2015. KPMG highlighted that the financial position of the business deteriorated due to the poor performance of a newly installed printing press.

KPMG stated: "The Group invested in a new press in September 2016 to provide increased capacity, however operational issues encountered during the installation and subsequent use of the press resulted in high levels of outwork, overtime, paper usage and production overheads that were not sustainable. As a result of the operational issues, losses of approximately £1m were made in the first quarter of FY17 and this resulted in acute cash pressure.

"The directors of the Group were forced to enter into discussions with key suppliers, HM Revenue & Customs, its landlord and the Secured Creditors as the Group was struggling to generate sufficient working capital to continue trading."

Previously a board member, Nicholas Alexander bought Garnett Dickinson Group, with the exception of its digital operation, for an undisclosed sum in 2015 and instigated a restructure of the operations.

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KPMG was engaged by the group in December 2016 to provide advice on options for restructuring its defined benefit pension scheme following a meeting with Alexander.

The cash pressures led to an exploration of options available in respect of investment, refinance or a sale, and to run an accelerated mergers and acquisition process. No offers were received for the Group so six trade competitors were identified and contacted regarding the opportunity.

GD Web Offset Limited was the only offer to come forward and the deal saw all of the trading business and assets sold to the new company whose directors are Paul Mursell of EWO Media in Essex and Jeremy Spring of Aspenlink, a company that converts some twenty five thousand tonnes of paper a year.

KPMG documents show that three connected Garnett Dickinson companies have left a shortfall of £29m, including a £25m pension deficit and £4.1m owed to trade creditors including finance providers RBS and Lombard.

The documents show that KPMG has been "liaising with the trustees of the defined benefit pension scheme, the Pensions Regulator and the Pensions Protection Fund concerning the changes caused to the pension scheme as a result of our appointment."

Accounts filed at Companies House for 2015 describe the defined benefit pension scheme as having a £6m deficit. The scheme was closed to future accrual in 2009 with no further contributions made by the company. A defined contribution scheme was set up and the company entered into an agreement to make good the deficit on the group pension scheme.

The original Garnett Dickinson business started in 1858 in the back of a busy stationary shop where it first published the South Yorkshire Advertiser. The Rotherham Advertiser is now published by Regional Media Ltd, a company which also has Alexander as a director and acquired the publishing business and assets from Garnett Dickinson in 2015.

Garnett Dickinson website

Images: Garnett Dickinson


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News: Xeros hires PayPal marketing man

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Innovative Rotherham company, Xeros, has appointed an expert in brand development and marketing to its board as it commercialises the patented polymer technology behind the first real revolution in laundry in 60 years.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), Xeros is a Leeds University spin-out that has developed a patented system using a unique method of special polymer beads rather than the usual large amounts of fresh water to clean clothes.

Stephen Taylor has joined the AIM-listed firm as it develops and commercialises Intellectual Property to deliver significant water and chemical savings to large scale global industries. Xeros' patented technology can be applied in partnerships with other companies across an increasing number of sectors, from commercial laundry, leather processing and now textile manufacturing.

Taylor is currently the chief marketing officer for PayPal Europe, the online payments system provider, and has over 20 years of experience working in brand development and marketing in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector.

He was previously the chief marketing officer, Europe for Samsung Electronic Appliances. Prior to this he held a number of commercial and business development roles within Procter & Gamble and Findus.

John Samuel, chairman of Xeros, said: "Stephen's considerable consumer marketing experience and sector expertise will be invaluable as we continue to develop and roll out our platform technology in a range of global markets. I am delighted to welcome Stephen to the Board."

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Xeros is in advanced discussions with a number of globally recognised brands as it looks to accelerate the adoption of the technology. It has Approved Supplier status for Hilton hotels in the Americas and has signed a heads of terms with Wollsdorf Leder Tannery in Austria for a ten-year contract to convert its entire re-tanning processes to Xeros' technology in 2017.

Research and development teams are working to create a domestic version of the Xeros machine that has enabled adopters in the commercial laundry sector to use up to 80% less water, up to 50% less energy, and approximately 50% less detergent, whilst delivering superior cleaning results compared with conventional washing.

Taylor joins other non-exec directors, John Samuel, former CEO of the Molnlycke Health Care Group, Dr. Richard Ellis, previously the global head of R&D for Reckitt Benckiser, and Julian Viggers, head of technology investment at Enterprise Ventures, which is an investor in Xeros.

Xeros' CEO is Mark Nichols, who has led a number of technology start-ups in the cleantech arena and previously worked for global enterprises including Total, Laing O'Rourke and BOC. Paul Denney is the chief financial officer and his two most significant recent roles were within high growth environments at Experian plc and at Callcredit Information Group.

Dr. Steve Jenkins, chief science officer, stepped down as a director to concentrate on the firm's scientific development programmes at the start of 2016.

Xeros website

Images: Xeros


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Thursday, February 16, 2017

News: Tata Steel union workers back pension proposals

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Union members at Tata Steel sites in the UK, including in South Yorkshire, have voted to accept a proposal to close the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to future accrual.

The Speciality Steel sites in South Yorkshire are set to be sold after Liberty House closed a deal with Tata Steel UK to acquire the business for a total consideration of £100m. The new owners will need to honour the new pension arrangements as part of the deal.

Last year, the Government launched a consultation on changes to the pension scheme - the huge pension liability with a reported £700m deficit that was seen as a deal-breaker for prospective buyers of Tata Steel's UK assets.

The consultation followed intense discussions between Tata Steel, the UK government, the pension scheme trustees and regulators to find the best option for members of the scheme.

Eight months after Tata announced their original intention to sell its UK steel assets, the firm made a commitment to secure the future of jobs and production at Port Talbot and other steelworks across the UK.

The ballot paper set out that the company's proposals to secure a sustainable future for the UK business. Key elements include £1 billion of investment over ten years, a commitment to running the blast furnaces at Port Talbot, an employment pact offering protection against compulsory redundancies, and the introduction of a Defined Contribution Pension Scheme, with maximum employer contributions of 10%, following the closure of the BSPS to future accrual.

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The assurances are conditional on a sustainable solution for the BSPS, Tata Steel UK remaining solvent, and no industrial action in connection with the proposal.

Trade unions also secured a guarantee from Tata that commits Liberty House to honour the new defined contribution pension arrangements. This means that under a new owner, union members in Speciality Steels would be entitled to the same pension arrangements as members in Tata Steel UK, with employer contributions of up to 10%.

Members of the Community Union voted 72.1% to accept the proposals, with members at Unite, 75.6% in favour. GMB members voting yes came in at 74.0%.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: "This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme.

"Steelworkers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking. Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF [Pension Protection Fund]."

Tata Steel website

Images: Tata Steel


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News: Sheffield city region showcased at MIPIM

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A delegation is gearing up for MIPIM to promote the billion-pound economic investment opportunities across the Sheffield city region (SCR).

The MIPIM conference is the world's premier real estate event, held each year in Cannes. It gathers the most influential international property players from the office, residential, retail, healthcare, sport, logistics and industrial sectors.

The largest-ever private sector delegation from the SCR will travel to MIPIM to promote an exciting range of regeneration sites and properties. They will have the headline-grabbing deal of supercar maker McLaren's recently announced £50m move into the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham as proof that this region is in the fast lane to success. The SCR is investing £12m in the project which is confidently expected to have further massive benefits for regional suppliers.

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The team will make a series of key announcements about the flagship assets offering opportunities for investors, and the funding available. Opportunities for MIPIM investors include visionary urban regeneration, extensive housing sites, and the excellence of transport links and strategic infrastructure in the region. The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID), the Peel Group's Aero Centre at Doncaster, and town centre revitalisation will be heavily promoted.

Recognising that high value manufacturing can be key to driving innovation, productivity and exports, civic leaders have committed to the idea of creating an AMID and "supercharging" the advanced manufacturing cluster and the Sheffield-Rotherham Economic Corridor.
Simon Carr, managing director of construction firm, Henry Boot Ltd and a sponsor of the SCR at MIPIM, has been an attender on behalf of the region for many years. He said: "It's networking at speed. It's very intense and it brings together the construction industry, developers, investors and local authorities.

"Being at MIPIM means that you can start some very good conversations that go on to build longer-term relationships.

"It generates interest and gets people talking – it's a catalyst for exploring opportunities."

Damien Wilson and Tim O'Connell from Rotherham Council will be representing Rotherham at MIPIM and also attending is Rotherham-based brownfield regeneration specialist, Harworth Estates.

SCR website

Images: SCR LEP


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