Boss pledges to help local economy after solar group’s collapse

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THE former owner of a solar installation firm which has gone into administration has said that creditors would “invariably” be left with losses, but he vowed to contribute to the local economy via his new business.

Chris Hopkins also told the Yorkshire Post that all 15 staff at Brighouse-based Ploughcroft Building Services had been made redundant. He said yesterday he shouldn’t have put “all his eggs in one basket” and would spread the risk across different areas in his new business.

The firm was set up in 1997 initially as a traditional domestic building and roofing company, later focusing on solar energy installation. Mr Hopkins appeared on TV’s Dragons’ Den in 2011, leaving with a £120,000 investment in return for a 25 per cent stake in the company. Yesterday, he said that the Dragons had exited the company in May this year.

Ploughcroft Building Services has been sold to a new company, Ploughcroft, after an arrangement was made between administrators DL Partnership and Mr Hopkins, as reported in the Yorkshire Post yesterday.

Mr Hopkins said he didn’t know the exact value of the losses that creditors would incur, adding that it is now in the hands of administrators. Ploughcroft Building Services recorded a turnover of around £10m in its latest financial year.

The company hit financial difficulties as the result of “ongoing feed-in-tariff (FIT) cuts”, while weather conditions this summer contributed to its woes. From August 1, the domestic rate for solar photovoltaic panels fitted to existing homes fell from 21p/kWh to 16p, following a drop from 43p in March. “We grew and grew and grew with the Government incentives around solar,” said Mr Hopkins. “I think the error of my ways was that I put all my eggs in one basket, ie the solar basket.”

But he said that while the FIT has reduced, so has the cost of installation, adding: “Even though the solar panel price dropped and we were able to do installations at a cheaper rate, the damage was done really by all the bad press about the feed-in-tariff cuts.”

Mr Hopkins has set up a smaller company focusing on “residential, domestic roofing, maintenance, repairs”, he said, with solar installations as well.

He said: “As soon as I can get it growing, I will start to employ staff again. But this time I won’t put all my eggs in one basket. I’ll spread the risk better and keep the overheads low.

“I’ve had a big knock and there’s a few people that won’t be happy with me and I’m sorry about that and very embarrassed actually.”

But he said: “Hopefully, I can put more money back into the local economy as we go forwards.”

Ploughcroft will initially use sub-contractors who were trained at the former company’s NVQ training centre. It helped produce a solar roofing NVQ. DL Partnership was unavailable for comment.