LEP grant helps gliding business soar

April 4, 2014

A specialist gliding business based in Herefordshire is looking forward to continued success after a grant from the Local Enterprise Partnership…
A specialist gliding business based in Herefordshire is looking forward to continued success after a grant from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) allowed it to expand and provide the capacity to meet the changing needs of the sport in the Marches region and beyond.

Iain 1
Iain Evans’ business has benefitted from a LEP grant

Iain Evans established Shirenewton Sailplanes in 1992 and initially ran the business in his spare time whilst continuing his career as a research engineer at British Steel.  It is focused on importing, servicing and repairing gliders and building trailers for their safe and efficient transportation.  Within two years, the business had really taken off and he decided to focus full time on building it in to the success it is today. In 2010, Shirenewton became the sole UK supplier and approved maintainer of a top range of South African gliders, and recent regulatory changes to the sport of gliding further added to the need for the business to expand as Iain explains:
“Gliding has always been a passion of mine and so it was a natural step to establish the business. Securing the contract to be the sole supplier and maintenance centre in the UK for the JS1 sailplane was a further boost to the client base we had already built up and took the business to near full capacity, to the point we had to start turning work away – a situation that no business wants to find itself in.
“Recent changes to the sport of gliding, however, are moving it much closer to the airline industry and we’re no longer able to build in the same area that we’re carrying out maintenance in.  This is a situation faced not only by ourselves but also by individual enthusiasts and larger gliding clubs, and the opportunity to capitalise on these changes and grow the business was therefore evident if we could find the right premises.”
Having been based at workshops in Lower Eggleton near Ledbury for a number of years, Iain was conscious of the need to remain in the area given the popularity of gliding in the Marches and the support received from local clubs including Midland Gliding Club at Long Mynd and Herefordshire Gliding Club based at Shobdon Airfield.  To this end, he acquired a 22 acre small holding at Richards Castle just off the A49 which included a large dilapidated workshop on which he secured planning to transform it in to the glider repair station.  Empty for eight years the workshop has required extensive work to bring it up to the required standard: “To meet the needs of the growing business and the changing regulations of the gilding sector, we needed to include an engineering workshop with enough space for clearly defined building and maintenance areas; as well as both office and customer spaces.
“Having stood empty for so long, we’ve had to complete extensive work to the premises. From building up insulation to dealing with drainage issues in the flooring, the work was absolutely vital to make the space fit for purpose.  Receiving the £32,000 grant made a significant difference that can’t be underestimated.  Simply we wouldn’t have been able to meet the new regulations in our old facilities, which in any case fell victim to the recent floods, and being the only manufacturer of glider trailers in the UK, we needed additional space to keep up with demand or see more and more work move overseas.”
Graham Wynn, Chairman of the Marches LEP, comments on Shirenewton’s experience of the Redundant Building Grant: “When regulatory changes are introduced in to any business or leisure area they can prove to be either an opportunity or a hindrance.  Thankfully, receiving this grant has enabled Shirenewton to turn the changes in to an opportunity as well as to capitalise upon the growth that the business was already enjoying.  Iain is keen to further grow the business with up to four new jobs in the pipeline and I’d encourage young people to look at the opportunities he has open for apprentices to join his team.”
Iain concludes: “I found out about the grant after reading about another recipient who had benefitted from it and I’m so glad I did.  The support from the grants team was fantastic and they were so helpful at all stages of the process. Simply it’s not only provided a lifeline to our business, but also, I believe, to the sport of gliding in this region.  I am now hoping to attract a number of apprentices in to the business to ensure its continued success.”
To find out more about the Redundant Buildings Grant Scheme, which has recently been extended to include Worcestershire, contact Caroline Cattle, Redundant Building Grant Manager, on 01432 260662 / ccattle@herefordshire.gov.uk
For further information contact Cath Shuttlewood at Be Bold Public Relations on 07990 505 522, or email cath@beboldpr.com”

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