THE achievements of Cumbrian construction tycoon Fred Story were recognised at the CN Group Business Awards last night.

He received the prestigious 'lifetime contribution to Cumbria' award at the black-tie gala dinner at the Low Wood Bay Resort, near Ambleside.

Mr Story, who turns 60 this month, founded the Carlisle construction business that bears his name in 1987.

Now operating as Story Contracting and Story Homes, the group has grown rapidly based on a reputation for quality.

The judges said that the 'Story' brand has become a byword for excellence and an ambassador for the county.

Last year Story Homes and Story Contracting both figured The Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 list of the UK's fastest-growing private businesses – the first time that two businesses owned by the same person have featured in the list.

The Story businesses have been major contributors to local good causes. Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw, Cumbria’s children’s hospice, are among the beneficiaries.

And Mr Story earned a place in Cumbrian folklore in 2004 when he rescued Carlisle United at its lowest ebb, following relegation from the Football League.

Under his ownership, the club secured back-to-back promotions.

For the third year running, the prestigious title of 'businessperson of the year' went to a businessman from Allerdale – this time to Craig Hatch of WYG.

The judges were hugely impressed not only by his record as Cumbria region director for the project management and technical consultancy, but by the fact that he runs its global asset management business from offices in Cockermouth.

South Cumbria's reputation at the county's export powerhouse was enhanced by Oxley Group's success in winning 'exporter of the year' for the second time in three years – Playdale of Haverthwaite won the category last year.

And there was a special award for TSP Engineering in Workington. The judges' reserve the right to make a special award to recognise the achievements of an exceptional business that has not secured first place in any other category.

In most years, no award is made. But this time the judges felt there was a compelling case to make a special award to TSP Engineering, the new name for Tata Steel Projects in Workington following the sale of the business to Greybull Capital in June.

The judges felt it was an exemplar for excellence in Cumbrian manufacturing, operating one of the most comprehensively-equipped facilities in the UK.

But what really impressed them was the remarkable turnaround achieved by the business, which has moved from a £2m loss into profit this year with further growth and improvements projected for 2017 and beyond.

Around 250 of the county’s movers and shakers attended the dinner and presentation.

BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin was the keynote speaker and Small Business Minister, Margot James, also delivered a speech.

CN Group, publisher of, stages the annual awards, which celebrate the achievements of Cumbrian businesses and the people who are behind them.

They are sponsored by the Centre of Nuclear Excellence.

Judging took place at the end of August but the results were kept a closely-guarded secret until last night.

Jonathan Lee, development director of CN Group, who chaired the judging panel, said: "All the judges were particularly impressed with the standard of this year's entries.

"It is testimony to the energy and commitment of individual business people and the dynamic and diverse businesses across the whole of Cumbria that the judges had such a difficult task.

"Cumbria has such a lot to shout about and be proud of when it comes to its business community.”

The other judges were John Grainger, stakeholder director at Britain's Energy Coast Business Cluster, Paul Murphy, a former CN Group Business Awards winner who won 'businessperson of the year' in 2014 and now runs his own recruitment agency, and CN Group business editor Julian Whittle.

Mr Grainger declared an interest in categories where Britain's Energy Coast Business Cluster members were under consideration.


Training and Development Award: Country House Outdoor, Carlisle

Exporter of the Year: Oxley Group, Ulverston

Community Involvement: Carlisle United Football Club

Innovation: Kendal Nutricare

Environmental and Energy Awareness: FSC Blencathra Centre, Threlkeld

Agribusiness of the Year: Lakes Free Range Egg Co, Stainton

Tourism and Hospitality Award: Treetop Trek, Windermere

New Business of the Year: Cumbria Travel, Whitehaven

Service Business of the Year: Prima Uno, Cleator Moor

Manufacturing Business of the Year: Clark Door, Carlisle.

Best Use of Media: Daffodil Hotel and Spa, Grasmere

Customer Service Excellence Award: Brampton Skip Hire, Carlisle

Rising Star Award: Will Gardner-Brennand, Miller Waite, Ulverston

Businessperson of the Year: Craig Hatch, WYG, Cockermouth

Social Enterprise of the Year: Carlisle United Community Sports Trust

Judges' special award: TSP Engineering, Workington

Lifetime contribution to Cumbria: Fred Story, Carlisle