Chorley Hotspots: In the right direction

By Ged Henderson

10 Aug 2023

Chorley Hotspots Panel

We’ve arrived in Chorley on our road trip around Lancashire’s hotspots. We visited Verat Space in Britannia Buildings, Just off the M61, to speak with business leaders and understand their priorities

Present:

  • Robert Woolley, F1 Real Estate Management
  • Elizabeth Porter, Brysdales
  • Heather Aust, CG Professional
  • Craig Parsons, B2B Tradecard
  • Richard Barnes, Studholme-Bell
  • Sue Corkin, Chorley Group
  • Phil Turner, Bespoke Digital Agency

The lure of the big city has long been seen as a challenge to Lancashire businesses in their quest to attract and retain the talent they need to prosper.

However, companies in Chorley are finding the town’s location and ease of access is drawing commuters in from Manchester as they look to escape the traffic jams and pressures of city working.

Craig Parsons is chief executive and founder of B2B Tradecard. Based in Euxton, the company runs loyalty and rewards programmes for businesses and has achieved turnover growth of more than 40 per cent every year since 2019.

He says: “We’ve grown in Chorley. Most of our staff are either from here or are young people coming in from Manchester, which I find really interesting.

“They like living over there and getting the benefits of city life but they don’t want to be commuting and trying to move around Manchester, they’d happily be moving the other way, going past people queuing to get in.

“Occupied here means they don’t have to commute ‘the wrong way’ into the traffic. And when you get here everything you need is around you. It is a much friendlier space than a stark city.

“Euxton and Buckshaw have plenty of facilities and options, you can drive into town in two or three minutes and the parking is decent.”

Heather Aust, partner at law firm CG Professional, founded and based in the town centre, is a commuter, travelling from her home in south Manchester. Previously she worked in Manchester city centre.

She says the practice is getting job applications from professionals in Manchester and Liverpool looking to take the same route.

She says: “When I came to work in Chorley in 2020 I’d never been here before in my life. I was concerned about what the commute would be like. Someone said to me ‘you’re going in the right direction’ and they were right.

“I went from a commute of six miles to 32 miles and it took me the same amount of time. Within walking distance of the office there’s an M&S and Booths.

“I’ve got everything nearby and I can walk around Astley Park and get my steps in and enjoy the fresh air. Chorley has a lot going for it.”

She adds: “It’s great that we are getting applications from people who have trained in Manchester who want to come and work in Chorley. I want to see more people come in and have the good experience that I’ve had.” Sue Corkin is group operations director at motor retailer Chorley Group.

With operations across the North West, the family firm has been based in the town which gave it its name for well over 30 years.

She is also relatively new to the town, hailing from Warrington and originally from the south of England, and is impressed by the strength of local relationship building. She says: “The people of Chorley are something else. They really care about the people in the town and its businesses.”

She adds: “The beauty of Chorley is that we sit in that motorway network and there aren’t the same pressures of going in and out of a city, which is fantastic. It is also quick and easy to get to the rest of Lancashire.”

That ease of access is another plus point for Craig Parsons. He says: “We’ve got the M6 on one side, the M61 on the other and the M65 forming the triangle.

“You can get everywhere pretty quickly and for people we deal with who aren’t from Lancashire the West Coast Main Line is effective. You can be in London, Birmingham, Glasgow or Edinburgh in around two hours and from Preston to Buckshaw it takes minutes.”

There are still challenges for businesses when it comes to recruitment.

Elizabeth Porter is group chief executive of Brysdales. It has a manufacturing facility in Chorley and its arms include Railex, which is a business supplies and equipment firm.

She says: “We want to employ local people. At the minute the question is how we tap into that local workforce. We find it very difficult to find them.”

When it comes to attracting talent to Chorley it is not all about the direction of travel. Phil Turner, head of digital at Bespoke Digital Agency, says: “People are going against the traffic flow to get here and that’s fine, but they also need something exciting to be travelling to, to be drawn to.”

Phil’s business is based at Strawberry Fields. The impressive £8.4m digital hub is owned and managed by Chorley Council, which secured a £4.1m grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to make it happen. It sits just off the motorway network.

The highly-acclaimed development features state-of-the-art facilities and Phil believes it is the big draw to attracting digital talent to the town, describing it as “an absolute asset.”

He says: “It is a huge issue trying to find digital talent and this feels like a real jewel. We’re levelling up the playing field when it comes to competing with Preston and, more importantly, Manchester and Liverpool.

“It’s a digital community. We know the dynamic of trying to hire people, very often you are almost pitching to them. So when I bring people in I’m selling the facility as part of the job.

“It’s not the whole answer and I think we could do more. But I hope it is the start of a journey for digital in Chorley.

“We need to build on the brilliant success of Strawberry Fields, we need more facilities like it for the service industries. Let’s do more of it and encourage the diversity that is growing in Chorley.”

Richard Barnes, director at Chorley accountants Studholme-Bell, agrees. The practice has been based in the borough for 15 years and he says: “We just need to build on the foundations we have in Chorley, such as Strawberry Fields and new people coming in to the area.”

He is impressed with the work that has taken place to attract new businesses into the borough, including the growth of Buckshaw Village, and the latest developments, which he says are needed to “bring the people in that Chorley needs to get the town buzzing.”

And he adds: “People enjoy being in Chorley and working in Chorley, with Chorley people. We have just got to continue building on that and we will continue to prosper.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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