Powerful performers

Just like the area it serves, there is much on-going development at Didcot Plant. Alan Guthrie reports on the busy hirer’s latest plans.

The iconic cooling towers of the former Didcot Power station that dominate the local landscape will eventually disappear as the site is redeveloped. However, this will add to the construction activity and business opportunities that have seen the town grow in recent years. Similarly, there have been changes at the impressive Didcot Plant hire operation since EHN last visited in 2012, and it has robust plans to ensure its on-going growth.

To recap briefly, the original Didcot Plant business dates back to 1967 and was acquired in 1992 by the late Fred Tarrant. The company moved to its current 1.3-acre site in 2001. Fred had stepped away from daily involvement in his role as Chairman when he passed away suddenly in 2015. Didcot Plant has obviously continued to flourish under the direction of his son Matthew and Co-Director Martyn Birch.

Best practices and safe systems

Technically, although Martyn Birch will retire in May, he will maintain his contribution to the company by overseeing Health & Safety matters. He told EHN, “Health & Safety is such a crucial and important part of our industry with, at the last count, 22 different sets of regulatory influences that direct and guide us in everything we do. Having achieved NEBOSH qualifications several years ago,” he added, “we must always ensure we continue best practices and safe systems of work. This attitude allowed Didcot Plant to achieve HAE SafeHire accreditation last year.”

To fill in the void, Matt and Martyn have appointed Steve Palmer as Depot Manager, who has previously worked for GAP and HSS, and the management team has also been further strengthened with the appointment of Nick Pollock as Transport Controller.

From left, Steve Palmer, Nick Pollock and Martyn Birch at Didcot Plant’s spacious location.

While he is not leaving our industry just yet, Martyn can look back on a fascinating and successful career. “Apart from being born and getting married,


everything else important that has occurred in my life has happened during my time in this industry of ours. It has dictated and influenced all things personal and professional.

“We continuously invest in our fleet.”

“Nearly 40 years ago, I found myself walking into a branch of HSS ‘Hire Shop’ in the Kings Road, Reading, for an interview with a gentleman called Monty Williams in response to an advert for a trainee assistant. I vividly remember walking through an array of equipment that I mostly failed to recognise, including something that looked like it had come out of The Ark with a blue frame on wheels with Broomwade written on the side, and some gold-painted, Kohler-engined bit of kit also on wheels with funny-looking round yellow and blue sockets attached. In the corner was a pile of what looked like rusty metal ammunition boxes with red and white stickers spelling ‘Kango’, and a pair of what I later found out to be ladder crittles hanging off some wooden racking that looked like they belonged in a medieval torture chamber.

Becoming a hireman

“An hour later, I was successful in gaining a job offer, which I accepted, and from that moment I was a hireman. From there I progressed, in order, to Assistant Branch Manager, Depot Manager, Area Manager and Divisional General Manager with HSS, then Owner & Director of independent Acorn Hire in Reading, before joining Didcot Plant as Business Development Manager, then General Manager and ultimately Director.

“Apart from the aforementioned M. Williams, I could list a number of people who I consider as primary career influences for the decisions they took involving me and my family. However, there are two I have to mention namely Ted (EJ) Jones at HSS, and Fred Tarrant.

“Depending on how long ago the reader is able to refer to, I began in a time of hand-crank starting without anti-kickback, no recoil starters, steel scaffold towers (absolutely lethal - if anyone can remember

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