Hutchinson Environmental Solutions celebrates 40 years

A successful Northumberland firm celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The company's founder tells Coreena Ford how the waste management firm has moved forward

Peter Stedman, Doddie Weir and George Hutchinson
Peter Stedman, Doddie Weir and George Hutchinson

When disillusioned farmer George Hutchinson set up Hutchinson Environmental Solutions, with his wife Violet, from their remote cottage near Wark in Tynedale, Northumberland, in 1973 the music scene was dominated by the likes of Slade, the Osmonds and David Cassidy.

Not that Hutchinson had the time to watch the latest teen fashions on Top of the Pops, he was far too busy for such trivia.

It did register with him, however, that the football team he supports, Sunderland, succeeded in winning the FA Cup in the year he was working round the clock to establish his business in the less than glamorous world of sewerage, drains and waste water.

Forty years on and Hutchinson is planning a party for his friends, family and staff of 23 to celebrate the momentous anniversary – not of Sunderland’s cup triumph, but of the establishment of his business.

The firm still operates from the same headquarters at White Wall Nook, north of Hexham.

“We have never seen the need to move,” said Hutchinson.

“We have customers in the south of England to the North of Scotland.

“Where we are is somewhere in the middle. And our staff, many of whom have been with us for decades, tend to live locally.”

As a teenager Hutchinson turned his back on farming, much to the annoyance of his father, because “there was no money in it”.

He started his own timber business chopping down trees in Kielder Forest. For a while the business thrived and he employed around 20 workers.

Then demand for timber lessened and he branched out into land drainage. Again, that business was doing fine until government grants dried up.

It was during a visit to a doctor’s surgery that Hutchinson spotted a newspaper advertisement looking for somebody prepared to carry out sewage treatment work on an agency basis, something he now admits he knew absolutely nothing about at that time.

He said: “Sewage is something people prefer not to think about, but effective waste disposal is naturally vital for the environment.

“There is a lot more pollution that goes on even now than people realise, or that some people are prepared to admit.

“Our offer has always been a service providing the full package of designing the sewage treatment works, then installing and maintaining them.

“An awful lot of homes and businesses are not connected to the main drains. They may be near but not connected, and we carry out the work to link them to the main drains.”

As well as securing a three-year maintenance contract with the Tyne Tunnel, Hutchinson Environment Solutions have installed and continue to look after systems for Beamish Museum in County Durham, motorway service stations across Britain, hotels in the Lake District and historic Rosslyn Castle near Edinburgh amongst a huge variety of clients.

Hutchinson said: “Rosslyn Chapel needed to upgrade their system after visitor numbers snowballed following the publication of the book The Da Vinci Code, in which it features.

Hutchinson’s expertise means the firm is in big demand from hotels, caravan parks, garden centres, housing developments and those other businesses where sanitation has to be spot on.

Hutchinson added: “We are also trying to stay one step ahead of the opposition on the environment front, with everything from solar power, reed beds, rainwater harvesting and grease management systems.”

The company have advised on eco-friendly water projects, including a reed bed installed for the RSPB near Bristol.

An almost messianic convert to the world of eco-friendly waste disposal is the company founder’s son in law, Doddie Weir.

And at six foot six, you are unlikely to want to argue the toss with the former British Lion and Newcastle Falcons rugby player who is now the firm’s commercial director, and whose towering reputation has helped to sell the business north of the Border.

Doddie’s input, and that of partner Peter Stedman, has allowed Hutchinson to loosen his hands on the reins of the business somewhat.

“It is in good hands for another 40 years,” he said.

Stedman added: “In 2010 our turnover was £1.8m. This year we’re forecasting £2.2m.

“Both Doddie and I are really pleased with that performance, particularly in the current economic climate. George has built the business on firm foundations and now it’s more than holding its own. It’s exciting times for us.”

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