Seddon boss pushes for development focus on Burnham advisory board

Charlie Schouten

Nicola Hodkinson, director of business services at Seddon Construction, has made joined-up development one of her priorities after being named on Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s business advisory panel.

Speaking to Place North West, Hodkinson said she had already discussed the potential priorities to raise when the panel has its first meeting, including pushing forward investment and local development projects across the region.

“We have talked about the need to extend the North West Construction Hub to include development projects”, she said, citing the example of Blackburn with Darwen’s recently-procured framework, which is designed to bring forward council-owned site for commercial development.

Blackburn has more than 180 public and private sites identified for development across the borough, and its framework will be used to help accelerate some of those sites, in addition to procuring construction and civil engineering works for infrastructure projects and capital programmes.

“A similar framework would give local developers and contractors a pipeline of work instead of having to rely on London and international money,” said Hodkinson.

Hodkinson added she had already sounded out senior figures within the Seddon business including construction managing director Peter Jackson, Seddon Developments director Jamie Seddon, and group chief executive Jonathan Seddon about the panel, and would be seeking views from the wider industry.

“I’ve not got all the answers but I’m prepared to go and learn,” she said, praising the mix of businesses represented by the panel.

“The more business is involved with shaping policy with local authorities, the more we can work together.”

Bolton-based Seddon has been active in the region for 121 years and Hodkinson said it was important for her to champion local projects.

“We have 686 employees and a large percentage of those are based in Greater Manchester, and much of our supply chain is based here too, so decisions made by the borough affect everyone.”

In addition to development, Hodkinson added she would make construction skills and training another of her priorities to raise at the panel, and would focus on helping businesses to form partnerships with local colleges to bring forward more training schemes, not just in construction but across a wide range of disciplines.

The panel’s members will advise the Mayor and Deputy Mayor for Business & Economy, Sir Richard Leese, on actions they feel the city region should be taking on issues affecting business.

There is representation from each of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs, with membership evenly split between women and men. Members of the panel include Kids Allowed chief executive Jennie Johnson, N Brown’s chief customer officer Ann Steer and Francis Kirk Group managing director Tom Kirk.

Hodkinson said she was “pleased there was an eclectic mix of different sized businesses based in different locations within Greater Manchester”, and particularly focussed on the mix of both large and small businesses on the panel.

Asked why there was only one property and construction business on the panel, she said the Mayor could “only pick from those who put themselves forward”.

She added she would look to support the Mayor’s initiatives on homelessness. Seddon already supports homeless charity Urban Outreach in Bolton alongside other partners in the BL17 initiative, and is looking to support a similar initiative across Greater Manchester.

The panel has not yet set a date for its first meeting, nor has it outlined how frequently the panel will meet or how decisions will be made.

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