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Business-University collaboration to develop clean-up technique

01/30/2008 10:12:06

John Ashford and Hayley Gilpin
John Ashford and Hayley Gilpin

Partnership model could help stop the brain drain, says company boss.

South Lakeland-based property developer Ashford Associates is working with Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), at Lancaster University, on a new technique to clean up contaminated industrial land so that it can be redeveloped safely and quickly.

Ashford Associates, which specialises in the development of industrial sites, is currently working with a Lancaster University graduate on a stabilisation methodology to ‘lock up’ ash within the soil at an ex gas works and tannery site that it owns on Kendal’s Parkside Road.

By working with a recent graduate the company hopes to play a part in stemming the ‘brain drain’ from the region by providing much-needed opportunities for skilled people.

Ashford approached Lancaster Environment Centre’s DESIRE (Delivering Environmental Solutions Into Regional Enterprise) programme for help in the development and commercialisation of the technique.

DESIRE is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and since its conception in 2003 has placed a large number of graduate consultants, undertaking Environmental Science and Geography Masters Degrees, into a wide variety of North-West businesses.

Ashford Associates recently opened an office at LEC and following a rigorous selection process, DESIRE matched up Lancaster University Environmental Science Graduate Consultant Hayley Gilpin with the company. Hayley is currently working with Managing Director John Ashford, to investigate the effectiveness of the land remediation method pioneered by the company, and to develop a model for the suitable implementation of the technique on a wide-scale basis.

John Ashford is delighted with the alliance.

He said: ‘LEC is a major Research and Development resource virtually on our doorstep and will become invaluable to any organisation wishing to engage in Contaminated Land Remediation and renewable energy systems locally. Having Hayley with us is an excellent opportunity for the business to develop its land remediation activities.

“This link with Lancaster University also demonstrates how it is possible for business to benefit from local graduates like Hayley and help stem the 'brain drain' from South Lakeland. Increasing the local skill base, with high value knowledge-based skills, is extremely important to the area and to the regeneration of Kendal.

“Ashford Associates and Managing Growth have a joint project called Design Gateway within the Kendal Regeneration Plan. A major platform for Design Gateway will be auditing and designing brownfield land remediation and renewable energy systems. This will not only mean we are putting in infrastructure to Kendal Regeneration Plan, but also projects to go into that infrastructure.”

Comprising 300 scientists and £35 million of capital investment Lancaster Environment Centre is one of Europe’s largest environmental research centres. It undertakes research projects in partnership with businesses in the agriculture, horticulture, water, energy, chemicals, environmental monitoring and environmental clean-up industries. It also provides environmental assistance to SMEs (Small to Medium Sized Enterprises) through the DESIRE programme. Office accommodation dedicated to use by businesses enables companies to draw maximum benefit from the centre’s resources and provides new commercial opportunities for business growth.