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Escape to the Country

May 13, 2016
Deputy Editor David Jordan makes an escape to the country to see how a Gloucestershire-based company is helping London’s removers cope with sky-high storage costs in the capital.

Edwards Trade Storage, now part of Clockwork Removals, has been providing secure storage for the removals trade since 1994 and with costs in the capital at an all-time high its services have never been more in demand.  As I approached Aston Down Business Park, a former WW2 RAF Station a few miles west of Cirencester, a uniformed security guard stopped me at the barrier – security was tight.  As I waited outside the guardroom for Edwards’ Branch Manager Jim Summerfield to escort me to their facility, CCTV cameras looked down from all angles, I was being watched.

After a few minutes Jim arrived in his car and I followed him closely through another security gate, which was opened remotely by the guard as we approached.  As we drove slowly around the old perimeter track it was easy to imagine how the place would have looked 70 years ago when Spitfires, and later Hawker Hunter jets were prepared here for combat and delivered to their squadrons around the country. 

Soon we arrived at Hanger 51, one of three used by the company to house around 6,000 containers on the site. As we entered through the huge steel sliding doors Jim explained the emergency procedures, pointed out the muster stations and first aid arrangements. Health & Safety is clearly taken very seriously here. 

Once inside and wearing my high-vis vest Jim introduced me to the team including Clockwork’s National Operations Manager Damon Theobald who was making one of his regular visits. It seemed like a happy ship; everyone I met was very welcoming and seemed as though they wanted to be there.  Later, Jim and Damon explained that the company is very keen to promote staff development, which is probably why. 

Over 95% of Edwards’ business is with London removers looking for safe, secure storage without having to pay the sky-high rents demanded in the capital.  

The company’s standard rate is £5.00 per week or part thereof, for a 250 cuft container with an extra £1.50 per week for container hire if required.  There is no minimum period.  

Removers simply deliver their containers to one of the company’s London depots in NW2 or SW19 for collection by Clockwork’s trucks for trunking to Aston Down.  Alternatively, they can deliver containers directly to the Gloucestershire site themselves if they wish to do so. 

At the end of the storage period containers are returned to the London depots within 72 hours of a request being made.  The movement and location of containers is managed using the bespoke computerised system in use when Clockwork took over in 2007. The system is due to be upgraded to Moveware later this year to bring it in line with Clockwork’s corporate operations.  

Although most of Edwards’ customers are London-based there are plans to encourage movers from other areas, especially in the South West of England, to use the service. 

“There is no reason why moving companies from other areas can’t use our facility,” said Jim. “We’re only a few miles from the M4 so movers in say Bristol or Cardiff could use us either for extra capacity or even as an alternative to providing their own warehousing. Some companies already use us as an operating centre and that’s something I’m keen to expand.” 

With the current upturn in the economy and the seemingly relentless increases in rent across many parts of the UK it is likely that out of town deep storage facilities like the ones at Aston Down will become increasingly popular with moving companies. 

“Our future is all about expansion and continuing to deliver exactly what our trade clients want,” said Jim. “If the demand is there we will be looking for ways to fulfil it, both here at Aston Down and elsewhere in the country.”  

Clockwork Removals Ltd 

Clockwork Removals was founded in Edinburgh in 1996 by its current chairman Courtenay Morison.  The company has 11 branches across the United Kingdom and a workforce of 220 people handling private and commercial moves both in the UK and overseas. 

Clockwork is a member of BAR, BAR Overseas Group, IAM, FEDEMAC and the FIDI Global Alliance.  The company is also a Which? Trusted Trader. 

Photos: Top right: Damon Theobald and Jim Summerfield; middle left: Piotr Niedziela at work in the warehouse; bottom right, left to right: Piotr Niedziela: Warehouse;Jim Summerfield: Branch Manager; Paul Callard: Warehouse Manager; Ashley Tonks: warehouse/admin. 

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