FAST-growing North East business The Protector Group has moved into new markets with its purchase of Valleywatch – the firm created 20 years ago to secure one of the country’s largest industrial estates.

Lord John Stevens, chairman of Protector, says the acquisition is a crucial cog in the development of the Gateshead business which last year posted record sales of £11.4m

These revenues were over 20% up on 2015 and the purchase of Valleywatch – which manually and electronically protects the Team Valley Trading Estate – opens up the potential to boost revenues further by penetrating the national industrial estate security market, says Lord Stevens.

Protector’s recent progress has been boosted by the acquisition of Hartlepool business QW Security in 2015 – and staff numbers across the group have risen from 230 to 370 in the last two years.

The growth of the company, which is also based on Team Valley, saw it secure a spot in The Journal and Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 in 2016.

Lord Stevens, who opened Valleywatch in 1996 when he was Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, said: “We are very pleased to have completed the purchase of this vital and well-respected business.

“Our aim is to develop new services and introduce new investment to build upon its long-established monitoring and response operation.

“Police cuts are supporting the growth of the private security industry and the purchase of Valleywatch means The Protector Group now possesses two control rooms supported by the region’s largest mobile response fleet.”

Bill Naylor, chairman of Valleywatch and founder of successful commercial property agency Naylors, says it is ‘delighted’ to have secured such a well-respected suitor.

He said: “The Protector Group has great reputation with the backing of well-respected and high-profile individuals.

“They understand our business and have an ethical approach to business. We like that they are a local company and we feel they are the perfect fit for the business.”

Mr Naylor recalled how Valleywatch came into being with the hundreds of businesses on the estate being subject to a spate of burglaries leading to its nickname ‘Crime Valley’.

A not-for-profit organisation, it was funded by over 100 of the estate’s businesses and over the years its manned control room, complete with dozens of security cameras, has secured contracts as far south as Birmingham, and Scotland to the north.

Mr Naylor also recalls Lord Stevens attending the opening ceremony in 1996.

Lord Stevens added: “It’s fantastic to return 20 years later as the owner of Valleywatch. Bill and the team have done a great job in delivering security and peace of mind for businesses over the last two decades and our aim is to maintain and improve upon that excellent service.”

The Protector Group was founded by ex-Royal Marine John Harvey, and later secured backing from former Newcastle United Chief Executive the late Freddie Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher’s son Alan, co-founder of enterprising Newcastle law firm Square One Law, sits on the board as does Lord Stevens who took a controlling stake in 2013.

Former Newcastle United finance director Ken Slater, was promoted internally to Chief Executive Officer last year.

Mr Slater said: “Our strategy is to continue to grow the business in a structured way, with the industrial estate protection market providing huge opportunities for The Protector Group. We will also be looking out for further acquisitions if suitable opportunities arise.”

In order to support its growth Protector signed new banking facilities with Barclays last year.

With the purchase of QW Security Protector also picked up QW Mutliclean allowing it to provide a comprehensive, facilities management package.

Mr Slater added: “We are further diversifying into combined security and construction cleaning services which is an ideal solution for Construction companies and housebuilders across the UK.”

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