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The month of November now holds at least 2 significant Anniversary dates for our family business.

On 2nd November 1975 Lilian and I opened our first showroom in Sunderland and took our first order and I still have the original Order Book No.1. I can also, clearly remember delivering the bathroom roller blind, 46 years ago, to the customers house a few days later. That was the beginning of the family business, which was called Northern Window Blind Company (NWBC) in those early days.

Fast forward 40 years and on the 26th November 2015 we completed the move to Solar Solve Ltd’s current Headquarters and Manufacturing Facility in Waldridge Way, South Shields and began to officially trade from there. We relocated virtually everything from the old Tyne Dock facility to this new 7WW building using our own employees.

The Board were also confident enough, at last, to stop renting business premises and buy the building, which has proved to be a very wise decision as we observe our 6th Anniversary in it. If we could have foreseen the future we would have purchased our own premises 20 years earlier.

Moving on from the workplace to home….

In my blog dated 10 February, 9 months ago, I wrote:

‘I read in tonight’s local Shields Gazette that as part of South Tyneside Council’s 10-year project to re-develop South Shields town centre, they are submitting plans for a very nice, very modern office building. You can read about it and see an artist’s impression here. It will be called The Glassworks and is proposed to be a state of the art, glass-fronted, 5-storey riverside office building and one of the first near-net carbon zero office buildings in the North East of England.

One spokesperson involved with the plan stated that despite the increase in people working from home because of COVID-19, there is still demand for quality and affordable office accommodation in the region. Apparently there are around 4 million people working from home, double the normal number, as a direct result of Covid-19 restrictions.’

It now seems South Tyneside Council have had a change of heart, as earlier this month there was a piece in the Shields Gazette about council chiefs hoping to divert cash from the halted Glassworks project to help regenerate other parts of South Shields’ riverside. Spiralling costs blamed on Brexit and the economic climate supply chain issues, meant the plans now came in £6million over budget and had led to the decision to permanently halt them, along with those for a cinema in the town centre. Halting of the project also comes as questions hang over the merits of such buildings after Covid-19 and the rising trend of homeworking.

The council said they are trying to ensure that the funding allocated for the ‘Glassworks’ project remains in South Tyneside and are exploring options to ensure it continues to help increase employment opportunities and prosperity in the region. They are already working with developers on plans to regenerate disused former docklands to the west at Holborn, where it seems likely chiefs will try to divert the funding. You can read the full Gazette story here.

Personally I admire the work our council is doing in this regard and appreciate it is not easy to predict what facilities to build now, that will be in place for the next 50 years or so. Especially when there are so many outside influences, the consequences of which are totally unknown, that will affect our future lives and how we live them.

I was always sceptical of plans to build another cinema in the town centre, when we have a small one already there and at least 2 multi-screen cinemas only a few miles away. That town centre site will be nicely paved and left until the future of town centres is better assessed.

Whilst working at home is not likely to be as popular as first thought, it is still significant and I applaud the council’s decision to keep moving forward by building more houses where it can, for the time being, as we will always need accommodation. I think that leaving the Glassworks as an empty commercial site until they have more idea of what will be needed in the future is also a good decision.

John Lightfoot, Solar Solve Chairman