New factory designed with feng shui help

A manufacturing firm which plans to quadruple the size of its UK operation and create 750 jobs over the next 15 years is building a new £11.5m factory with the help of a Chinese feng shui expert.

Mike Pickles, chief executive of Really Useful Products, which operates across 13 countries and has a £40m turnover, is spearheading the expansion of the business after running out of space at its current site in Normanton.

A Chinese development company encouraged him to use a feng shui master to design the 204,000 sq ft building at a site in Wakefield.

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Pickles said: “Our current site is at full capacity so we need space to grow. We want the new building to reflect the way we operate using clever design.”

Mike Pickles, chief executive of Really Useful Products

The site will feature a pair of stone lions, which are a symbol of protection, as well as a north facing factory entrance.

The situation of the building had to be moved by one degree following a visit by the consultant and his feng shui compass earlier this year.

Gayle Taylor, head of building consultancy at Lambert Smith Hampton, who is project managing the scheme, said: “This is a really exciting project. The client is a particularly interesting character and his enthusiasm is infectious.

“However, it’s a very challenging project. We had to go back to the drawing board with everything because the design was very slightly out.”

Mike Pickles, chief executive of Really Useful Products

The factory, which is being built by Lancashire-based Barnfield Construction, will also feature a £250,000 natural ventilation system to keep the building cool alongside a number of other energy efficient features to keep costs down.

This is the first of four phases. Future phases, which will also be designed using feng shui, include a six-storey office building shaped like a butterfly.

The company has also bought a piece of land on the opposite side of the road, to build a 40,000 sq ft design museum to showcase the company’s products to members of the public. “I want to inspire young people and show them how to develop new products,” said Mr Pickles.

The initial phase is due for completion in autumn 2016.

Originally, Mr Pickles planned to start phase two, the museum, in 2017 but he told The Yorkshire Post that the company has put all investment and recruitment temporarily on hold following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

About 45 per cent of Really Useful Products’ turnover comes from outside the UK, including around 25 per cent from the EU. “Last year we grew our labour force by 100 thanks to a £4m European investment grant but that sort of help will stop,” said Mr Pickles. “We would have had an extra 12 employees by now if it (the vote to leave) hadn’t happened.”

He added: “We have to import our raw materials because we can’t get the same grade quality in the UK. We are looking at £2m extra material costs due to the movement in currency. There is a great deal of uncertainty.”