Frank Whittle (far right) with partners from FWP

An award-winning business that began life in a small Preston office has grown into a creative force with a national reputation for architecture, design and masterplanning excellence.

Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Today it has a staff of more than 60 within FWP Group and offices in Manchester and London, as well as its headquarters in Ribblesdale Place, Preston, where it was founded in December 1960.

Over that time the business has played an important role in delivering iconic developments both in its home city and across the UK.  Its work today covers all aspects of construction, from cost management to architecture and masterplanning services. It is truly multi-disciplinary.

FWP is best-known for its sports stadia and NHS and healthcare design work, though its portfolio is much wider and ranges from heritage projects to leisure developments.

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The firm started life as a quantity surveying practice, based across the road from its present head office. Founded by Alan Jones it was originally Jones and Etchells, before becoming Vandome Jones and Partners.

Frank Whittle, who had a background in local government, later joined the business and became senior partner. As each of the original partners retired the firm was renamed Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) in the mid-80s.  Alan stayed with FWP until his retirement in 2015.

Frank’s contacts in the construction world and expertise, particularly in cost and project management, led to the growth of the firm in the 70s and 80s with current partners Gordon Burke and Brent Clayton joining in the late 80s.

He brought in current managing partners David Robinson and Martin Whittle in 1991 and the firm has continued to flourish ever since. The growing partnership now includes Kate Shuttleworth, Neil Ainsworth, Daniel Thompson and Nick Wiley.

The practice’s very first job in 1960 was working on a small petrol forecourt pay kiosk in east Lancashire. Today it is involved in a host of multi-million-pound health, sports, leisure and cultural projects for a range of clients.

Current schemes include the restoration of Rochdale’s historic Town Hall; The Sands, Blackpool’s first five-star hotel which is being built next to the Tower; the rebirth of the historic Park Hotel in Preston and a host of football developments, including the redevelopment of the sports stadium in Bath.

Highlights across six decades have been many and varied. In the 1970s the practice was part of the team that delivered the Tickled Trout hotel on the banks of the Ribble on the outskirts of Preston.

In the 1980s FWP carried out a host of work for leisure group Pontins, then one of the country’s premier family holiday providers, managing and masterplanning the development of facilities across its portfolio throughout the UK.

The 1990s saw the start of the redevelopment of Preston North End’s famous Deepdale football ground, spearheaded by the practice. That was the start of FWP’s sports stadia work.

In 2007 FWP delivered the highly-acclaimed redevelopment of Doncaster Racecourse, home of the St Leger – one of Britain’s five classic horse races.

Locally, FWP’s specialist sports multi-disciplinary team created the Mill Farm Sports Village at Kirkham, including AFC Fylde’s 6,000 capacity state of the art ground. It also designed a striking 2,000-seater stand for Fleetwood Town.

More recently the practice led the £5m award-winning regeneration of Preston Markets, including the restoration of its iconic market canopies.

Frank Whittle retired from the firm in 2018 after 70 years in construction. During his time in the industry FWP helped to pioneer the concept of project management.

His work with the practice took him across the UK. He said: “I loved the opportunities that the work gave me. There have been so many highlights over the years and I’m very proud of what has been achieved.

“Princess Alexandra opened the Pontins development that we delivered for the business in Blackpool and Prince Charles opened the National Football Museum in Preston and the new Gloucester Services on the M5.

“The word partnership in the firm’s name is really important. It sends a powerful message that all our people are involved in what we do.

“If I was to sum up in one word what makes FWP so special, I’d say ‘enthusiasm’. There’s always been real joy in what we do.

“It’s been a pleasure to see the continued development of the business which through the efforts of its people is today well known not only in the North West but throughout the country.”

The business also has a reputation for the long-service of its staff. Roger White retired from his role as a quantity surveyor in 2015 after more than 46 years.

He said: “FWP has always had the feel of a family firm with a great atmosphere.

“Over the years I was there, we worked on a whole range of projects, not all of them making the papers. Health service and council work was always important.

“We’ve also been involved in the growth of Preston, for instance, we carried out a lot of work when the dock area was being redeveloped.”

Managing partner David Robinson said: “We’re very proud to have reached our 60th anniversary milestone, though the coronavirus pandemic has meant we haven’t been able to celebrate it in the way we wanted.

“I think what makes FWP different is the way we work so closely with our clients, who benefit from our multi-disciplinary expertise and our creative approach. We are a property advice one stop shop.

“And, as Frank says, our enthusiasm still shines through. We look to bring creativity and passion to all our projects and that is seen with every one of our teams.

“Our broad range of experience and knowledge is another real plus factor and ensures that we consistently deliver projects efficiently and cost-effectively.

“We continue to evolve and adopt new ways of working and technologies. The next 60 years promise to be just as challenging as climate change has to be dealt with.”

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