A SCHOOL has been transformed into the headquarters of a Bolton company which itself is in the transformation business.

Sanber Ltd has officially opened its new premises in the old St Paul’s School in Astley Bridge, after a £425,000 refurbishment.

The school, built in 1875 but which spent 40 years as a cash and carry warehouse after it closed, now houses Sanber’s offices and workshops after the company moved in from a next door unit.

And at its opening, performed by Sir David Crausby MP, children from the new St Paul’s nearby were invited to see the transformation of the old school building.

And that community involvement is something managing director Mr Bernard Coates is proud of.

He said: “While we were doing to work, people kept stopping and saying they used to attend the school. The project seems to have gone down well with the local community.

“When it was Howcroft and Hutchinson cash and carry it was a bit like a bunker with grilles at the windows. Hopefully we have made it look prettier.”

Sanber’s business success has seen it rise to become one of a handful of specialists in its field in the country.

The company designs and installs laboratory facilities and fume extraction systems — similar to a domestic cooker hood but used to extract chemicals — and is responsible for work at some of the county’s top universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare businesses.

It also carries out work for the Government, at the famous Porton Down military science park and the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell.

Mr Coates runs the company with his wife Sandy who is the financial director — the name is taken from their first names — and it was formed in 2001 after he spent many years working in the industry and decided to go it alone.

That meant starting in the bedroom of their home before the move to a unit in Newnham Street. When the school building next door came on the market last year, it was the idea location and size and meant they could expand.

The Coates are proud that all the contractors used on the project were from the local area.

Mr Coates added; “We have received considerable support from the community especially St Paul’s Church and school as well as our immediate neighbours who were keen to the building fully utilised.”

And while the transformation work was going on the business continued with its own transformation work.

Engineering and science go hand in hand during the laboratory installations.

Mr Coates, who lives in Bradshaw and was educated at Thornleigh Salesian College, said: “We have to be aware of what the laboratory is being used for, know what can and can’t be touched, and know about the chemicals being used.”

The company employs a team of 14 who oversee the projects from planning and installation, with help from sub contractors.

And the job takes them all over the country.

Mr Coates added: “Usually when we are doing university laboratories, we move in when the students leave in the summer and we finish the job as the new term starts.”

They have recently finished a £1½m contract at Liverpool John Moores University and the company is turning over £2½m a year.

And Sanber is a true family business. Son David is technical director and Mr Coates sister-in-law Jane Holland is office manager. Joanna Speight completes the team as sales director.

And looking to the future. Sanber is currently developing facilities for clients researching infection control and a cure/early detection method for alzheimer’s disease.