LIE OF THE LAND
Property company that likes to walk quietly but carries a big stick
EVERY SURVEYOR knows the dangers of buying property with your head rather than your heart but when Jeremy Nolan bought his new house six weeks ago he couldn’t help himself.
“I should have bought something that’s low to maintain, orderly and sensible,” he says. “This house was built in 1875 in the style of an alpine chalet.”
The home in Ilkley, where he lives with his wife, Anna, and three daughters, age 14,11 and eight, featured in the 1965 film Life at the Top, starring Laurence Harvey and Honor Blackman.
“We went online and watched the film on YouTube,” he says. “The house hasn’t really been touched since so we could clearly identify all the rooms. I like stuff like that.”
Nolan, 46, who describes himself as ‘open-minded’ and ‘bloody-minded’, co-owns Glentrool Estates Group, a business investment and property company which employs six staff in Ilkley, with his brother, Paul.
It was established in 2001 and ran in parallel with their transport business, Associated Transport Services (ATS) , which they built into the second largest City Link franchise in Britain, with a £26m turnover, before selling it Rentokil Initial in 2006.
Through Paul, who has a corporate background, the company invests in businesses, which have included Ilkley Brewery, Oakworth Joinery and Charterhouse Recruitment.
Jeremy, a surveyor, is in charge of the property side of the group, which owns offices and industrial buildings across West and North Yorkshire, funded by Rothschild.
It also has a £105m development site, Sherburn 2, near Selby, which has the capacity to create 1.25m sq ft of employment space and about 2,500 jobs.
The original Sherburn site, which was developed by a number of companies, is home to Debenhams, Legal & General Homes and bus builder Optare among others.
Glentrool bought its first chunk of land, a former vehicle test track, near the industrial estate 10 years ago and it has spent the last decade getting it ready for development.
“There was no access, no planning and we couldn’t get vacant possession from farmers,” says Nolan. “There were also 14 acres of land that we didn’t own so we had to buy that in. It took us six years to sort the problems out on the site and get planning.”
It also had to divert a water course, known as Bishop’s Dyke, to build a bridge, which took almost three years to complete.
It has been a complicated process and now the pressure is on Nolan to persuade businesses to move there. “We now have a development site that is ready to go,” he says.
There is interest, he insists, for units ranging from 60,000 sq ft to 600,000 sq ft from sectors including distribution, manufacturing and even a vertical farm (indoor food production).
“We now need people to put their brass down and get on with it,” he says.
Glentrool also has plans for a 32,000 sq ft retail development scheme in Ossett, Wakefield, which was recently refused planning permission.
“There’s a tendency for property developers to brag about how much land they have,” says Nolan.
“We’ve deliberately not bought any more land because we don’t need to but I don’t want that to be misconstrued as a lack of ambition.
“I think it’s really important that whoever we engage with professionally recognises that we can deliver and we’re not developers who get options on 57 sites and pretend to own them. We walk quietly and carry a big stick.”
Born and brought up in Leeds, Nolan originally wanted to be an architect but he admits he ‘flunked’ his A-levels and studied valuation and estate management at Bristol Polytechnic.
He started his career at Dacre, Son & Hartley and then moved to Alder King in Bristol, working in LPA receiverships, before returning to Yorkshire at Chesterton in Leeds.
Nolan had a brief spell at Lambert Smith Hampton before being poached by developers Wilson Bowden.
This was the springboard he needed to launch Glentrool at the age of 31.
“It was a leap of faith to start with an empty desk,” he says. “It’s quite hard to change from being an agent to being the client and for the business community to see that I wasn’t just a surveyor.”
It wasn’t the prospect of Leeds’s commercial property market that initially lured Nolan back to God’s own country, it was his love of rally driving in North Yorkshire.
“Not to say my career wasn’t important,” he says sheepishly, “but I came back to Yorkshire to get on with my rallying.”
Nolan drives and his brother is his co-driver, following in the footsteps of their father who introduced them to the sport.
Together, the brothers have competed in about 140 events around the world. In 1997 they won a works drive in the British Rally Championship for Volkswagen.
“It’s what I really love,” Nolan confides. “It’s such a massive singular focus that when you’re doing it, nothing else exists.”
Glentrool is even named after one of his favourite rally driving forests in Scotland.
“I can still feel the hairs on the back of my neck 20 years on,” he says.
The pair were committed to the sport between 1997 and 2010 but had to take a step back when children came along. “It’s quite a selfish sport,” he adds.
Nolan took up cycling to fill the void rally driving left but now he is inspiring the next generation.
He plans to build a car with his eldest daughter who wants to take part in the Harewood Hill climb. “It’s a great sport, it’s fabulous,” he says.
It was a leap of faith to start with an empty desk. It’s quite hard to change from being an agent to being the client and for the business community to see that I wasn’t just a surveyor. Jeremy Nolan, director of Glentrool Estates