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Prince charms the crowds at opening

THE Duke of York proved a real prince charming when he officially opened the new headquarters of the North Lancs Training Group in Accrington.

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A REAL charmer - Prince Andrew, The Duke of York.

THE Duke of York proved a real prince charming when he officially opened the new headquarters of the North Lancs Training Group in Accrington.

He spent an hour talking to bosses, staff and apprentices and handed out certificates to NVQ students at the new training HQ at Bradshawgate House in Abbey Street.

He arrived in a chauffeur-driven Jaguar, 15 minutes late but, despite the delay, still managed to make up lost time and speak to as many people as possible.

The prince was welcomed by dozens of well-wishers outside before he was led into the foyer by managing director Jim Harkness, where he met the Mayor of Hyndburn Win Frankland and leader of Hyndburn Council Peter Britcliffe.

And, the naval hero was then shown a replica of the actual captain's table from the ill-fated Titanic, in the main board room.

The prince is chairman of the Outward Bound Trust, which the training group has been involved with for 25 years. It is also one of the founding members of the Outward Bound Patrons Company, made up of 50 firms which each donate £10,000 per year to keep the trust afloat.

After being shown around, he unveiled a plaque. Praising the firm, he said: "I would like to congratulate you on what you have achieved over the last few years in terms of training, education and skills."

"It has given young people the necessary skills so they can compete well in an economic environment which is very competitive."

"What you have done is vital for young people and it gives me enormous pleasure to be here today to congratulate you, to thank you and to wish you enormous success in the future."

The prince was presented with a special footstool with the Outward Bound logo on, made by North Lancs trainee Andrew Jagger, 17, from Hebden Bridge, who is studying upholstery.

Becci Garner, another 17-year-old office apprentice, from Altham West, said the royal visit would help boost the firm's profile.

She said: "It is going to help people know about the group. The prince was really nice and friendly."

MD Mr Harkness said: "I am very proud for the staff members of the group. It has been an absolutely superb day. We have always dreamed of getting someone high profile to open our headqauarters, so to get Prince Andrew is fantastic."

  • Pensioner Duncan Wilkinson decided to call off a planned protest against a new furniture training centre being built behind the group's headquarters, after two police officers paid him a visit. Explaining his decision, he said: "The police asked me what I intended to do and I said nothing. I went out to see the prince and think I was shadowed by one of his men."