The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) has helped a Belford business put down roots in a new factory in Northumberland. Treelocate needed a better site for their work – designing, manufacturing, and exporting artificial plants and trees to exotic locations around the world.

The firm, whose clients include Dubai International Airport, ANZ Bank in New Zealand, the BBC, Marks & Spencer, and Next, used almost £150,000 from the ‘North of Tyne Rural Business Growth Fund’ funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to build a new factory, visible from the A1. First established in a small barn by brothers Mark and Jonny Nesbitt in 1995 after they bought a consignment of artificial trees from Asia, Treelocate has outgrown its current four-acre site in Belford, near Holy Island.

Mark Nesbitt said: “We started the business by working with interior landscapers and supplied quite simple products for offices where live trees would have struggled to survive. Our customer base has expanded since then, and we need more room. A lot more. We’ve outgrown the premises here in Belford and have, for five years now, been looking for somewhere new. We identified a site which was a field for agricultural use and then spent three or four years getting planning permission for the new facility. We’re well into the construction now and hopefully will be moving in within the next months. What the Rural Business Growth Fund money has really allowed us to do is to complete the building more quickly and to the standard we wanted. We have some quite important clients coming in and our products are very showy. We wanted to show them off in the best way possible.”

In 2016, Treelocate completed a £275,000 order to supply 17 23ft high olive trees for the seven-star Four Seasons Hotel in Bahrain. It has supplied man-made trees to Norway and to be sited in parts of the volcanic landscape of Iceland, where live trees struggle to grow. The North of Tyne Rural Business Growth Service worked with Treelocate to prepare their grant application and ensure the project’s success.

Brothers Mark and Jonny Nesbitt surrounded by trees ready to be planted

Brothers Mark R and Jonny Nesbitt L

To date, the Rural Business Growth Fund has approved 27 grants over the course of the programme, awarding almost £2 million to businesses – from engineering firms to food producers.

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Culture Creative and Rural, and Leader of Northumberland County Council, Cllr Glen Sanderson, said: Treelocate is one of the most innovative and distinctive businesses we have in the North of Tyne. The investment from the Rural Growth Fund will help them grow, help them expand their customer base, and help them create important new jobs where they are well-needed. I’m glad the new premises is being built in Belford, where they began. They’re an important employer there and continue to recruit locally. It’s good to see them going from strength to strength and really flying the flag for our region.”

Louise Tate, Finance Manager with Tree Locate, said: “We were successful in our application for grant funding towards the building of our new premises. The grant has and will help with cashflow at peak expense periods and meant that the build could continue without delays. From application to claim all parties concerned provided invaluable assistance throughout the process.”

For more information about the service, contact the Rural Business Growth Team on 01670 528 400 Email: ruralsupport@advancenorthumberland.co.uk or visit www.ruralbusinessgrowthservice.co.uk