WHEN the high-profile collapse of Thomas Cook hit the headlines, the impact was felt across the country, including in Wantage where the local branch closed abruptly.

Sarah Newton had worked for Thomas Cook as a travel consultant for several years and finding herself in this daunting situation, she decided to use it as an opportunity to follow a dream.

With the support of her family, she began the process of setting up our own business, Sarah Newton – Travel Counsellor.

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Ms Newton said: “Being an independent travel counsellor will mean I will be able to provide not only a professional and personal service, but the flexibility to fit around the customer.”

After contacting a local accountancy firm, Lucas Hill Accounting, Ms Newton was given assistance and advice regarding the set-up of her new venture.

While considering suitable premises for the new business, accountants were able to put Sarah in touch with Boston House Business Centre at Grove Business Park.

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Sarah Turner, centre manager of Boston House, said: “We are always keen to assist small businesses and with a thriving business community and support network the centre is the ideal place for ‘start-ups’.

“It is a privilege to be able to offer support to a member of our local community and provide office space for Sarah.”

Hayley Hill, of Lucas Hill Accounting, said: “When we became aware of the situation with Thomas Cook we were naturally sad for all of the staff, especially those who work locally.

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“When we heard that Sarah was starting up her own company off the back of this; we wanted to help.

"We love supporting local small businesses and really want to give her every chance of success.

2We were therefore very happy to support her with her new adventure and provide her with her first year’s accountancy and tax support on us.”

Ms Newton said: “The support I have already received from local businesses, including Neil Aston of Photogenic Photography, in my home town of Wantage has been overwhelming.

“Taking this leap was huge for me personally but with customers both new and existing contacting me daily it has given me such enthusiasm to make a success of this new and exciting venture.”

At the same time, Grove Business Park has launched the latest phase of commercial properties at the 32-acre commercial development.

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The new development, known as GBP1, totals 35,962 sq ft (3,341 sq m) and provides a mixture of industrial and two-storey office/hi-tech accommodation in ten self-contained units.

Two of the units, totalling 11,364 sq ft (1,056 sq m), have been pre-sold to Astrosystems Ltd, an existing occupier on Grove Business Park.

The bank-note reader and coin validation business has relocated its operation to the GBP1 phase.

The remaining properties, which range in size from 1,975 sq ft (183 sq m) to 6,755 sq ft (628 sq m), are available on new leases or for sale.

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Richard Lyall, of Grove Business Park, said: “GBP1 is an important milestone in the regeneration of the business park.

"The new properties provide best in class accommodation that provides businesses with flexible and adaptable space suitable for a wide range of business operations, from offices, research and development and laboratory space through to light manufacturing, assembly and storage.”

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The properties have been designed with the ground floors either configured as warehouse space with an eaves height of six metres or in the smaller high tech units in a ‘shell’ finish to allow them to be fitted out to meet specific operational needs.

Each property has first-floor office accommodation.

David Williams of letting agent Bidwells in Oxford, said: “Being situated in an area recognised for science and technology, Grove Business Park is an increasingly important location for SMEs and fast-growth businesses.

"The new phase, GBP1, has been designed to meet the occupational needs of such companies by providing buildings that can be adapted and made suitable for a wide range of operations.

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“The business park is already home to a wide spectrum of business and the new properties are already generating interest from other companies from the local area and across South Oxfordshire."

Debbie Malin, general manager of Astrosystems, said: “When the new phase at Grove Business Park was first announced, we realised that it presented a great opportunity for us in terms of creating a headquarters modern facility that could fulfil the precise needs of our business.”