Jobs joy as Sunderland firm Franks Portlock doubles workforce and expands its HQ

(from left) Stephen Portlock, Coun Michael Mordey and  Phil Franks
(from left) Stephen Portlock, Coun Michael Mordey and Phil Franks

A Sunderland environmental consultancy has the opposition green with envy.

Asbestos specialist Franks Portlock has created new jobs and doubled the size of its Sunderland HQ after opening up a number of new markets.

Since our launch, we’ve carried out work from the tip of the Shetlands to Penzance, so we are very much a national organisation, and more strategic offices around the UK are in the pipeline.

Phil Franks

The firm has moved from Washington into 3,000 sq ft offices at Hylton Park, recruiting eight new members of staff and expanding its services.

The £1.7million-a-year turnover business, which now employs 34 people, provides asbestos consultancy, inspection, testing and management services. It conducts asbestos surveys, air tests and lab analysis – and issues official clearance certifications.

Nuclear, retail and industrial sectors make up its biggest markets, while brownfield redevelopments are increasingly important.

Such locations, often earmarked for housing projects, may have a legacy of asbestos contamination in soil and on-site building waste.

The company plans to launch an accredited soils analysis service at its Sunderland lab, alongside additional occupational and environmental testing services.

The company was established in Sunderland in 2007 and has subsequently opened offices in London, Rosyth (Scotland) and at the Sellafield site in Cumbria.

Co-founders Phil Franks and Stephen Portlock’s start was aided by several major contract wins – including with retailer Boots and Able UK, which needed asbestos surveys of American naval ships being recycled.

“Asbestos awareness is at an all-time high and the recent spotlight on areas like schools is driving better standards, particularly in terms of asbestos management – although arguably there is still an awful lot to do,” said Phil.

“Internally we have worked to move the company on by recruiting in key areas such as commercial, quality system and technical competence.

“Since our launch, we’ve carried out work from the tip of the Shetlands to Penzance, so we are very much a national organisation, and more strategic offices around the UK are in the pipeline.

“We aim to create new jobs at all of our regional offices, with Sunderland likely to see the most. Sunderland City Council has been very supportive and great to work with from the outset.”

Franks Portlock’s move was supported by the business investment team at Sunderland City Council.

Deputy council leader Coun Michael Mordey said: “The company’s success not only highlights the enterprising approach of its founders, but also underlines why Sunderland, with its excellent links to the A1 and A19, is a great location from which to run a national business.