The Henfield-based specialist steel-framed buildings company, which covers Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire, has just completed an impressive new riding school for the Horsley, Bookham and Leatherhead Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).
The RDA is a national charity that provides therapeutic riding sessions for children and young adults with disabilities. It helps children as young as four with conditions including autism, Down’s Syndrome, ADHD, cerebral palsy and dyspraxia.
“The RDA does fantastic work and it’s been a privilege to create this wonderful new facility at Badgers Farm, Effingham, that will allow them to offer rides to youngsters all year round in a weatherproof, modern riding school,” said Forma owner Keith Stoner.
The riding school, 60m long by 37m wide, posed a particular challenge as it is close to the National Trust-owned Ranmore Common on the North Downs, near Dorking in Surrey.
“It’s in a beautiful part of the countryside and it was important to make sure it had minimal visual impact on the landscape,” explained Keith. “Not only was it a planning condition, but it’s always important to me not to harm the countryside I grew up in.”
It meant Forma spent ten weeks on the groundworks alone, cutting the site back into the hillside to create an eight-metre reduction so that the height of the building at the eaves is not far off where the old ground level used to be.
The countryside is hugely important to Keith, who lists the National Trust and land agents Strutt & Parker amongst Forma’s clients and who includes a complimentary barn owl or bat nesting box with every agricultural, equestrian or industrial building he erects.
“The countryside is in my blood,” Keith commented. “I was born and raised on a farm estate on the Surrey/Sussex border and my dad was as much of a countryman as you can imagine, so my buildings all respect the environment I love.”
Having gained some early skills as a bricklayer for dad Jack after leaving school and attending Crawley College, Keith set up his own company in 2001, and after gaining considerable experience as a project/contract manager with a number of leading steel frame and groundwork companies, he set up Forma Steel Framed Buildings five years ago.
He has also served in the fire service and the police force and returned to school to study part-time during his earlier career. “I’ve certainly packed a lot in, but I think my broad experience gives me an advantage when helping clients decide what they need and how to achieve their aims,” he commented.
He specialises in agricultural, equestrian and – increasingly – vineyard buildings and is the approved contractor for Dorking, Surrey-based Vinescapes, which describes itself as “the leading vineyard and winery development consultancy in the UK”.
While Keith has more than 20 years’ experience in the trade, his family connections go back even further. He has traced his ancestry back to 1605, when bricklayer Henry Stoner married a girl called Phoebe in Cowfold Church – just a couple of miles away from his current home.
“I’m also just a mile away from the former home of the DeStoner family who lived in Woodmancote in the 1200s, though I haven’t yet been able to prove a connection,” he added.
Forma, which boasts a highly skilled team of steel frame erectors, cladders, general builders, roller shutter installers and groundworkers, can also offer a full electrical fitout if required. It uses steel frames from two established suppliers and sources cladding locally.
Importantly for a company with a clearly defined focus on quality, Keith works directly on every job and oversees the team closely. “I take a personal interest in all Forma’s projects and I make sure every one of them meets not just the customer’s expectations but my own,” he commented.
“We don’t claim to provide the cheapest buildings, but we guarantee good value and we insist on providing good quality throughout. We only use fully galvanised frames and cladding from well-established companies and our ethos is all built around customer satisfaction.
“I also always insist on visiting the client and discussing the job in detail to ensure I know exactly what they want before pricing the job. As well as making sure the price is accurate, it also allows me to use my experience, on some occasions, to suggest ways in which they might be able to improve the project or cut out unnecessary costs.”
At the heart of the riding school at Badgers Farm is a 60m X 37m arena clad with vertical space boarding and enhanced by an extra 7m of insulated lean-to building that extends along the whole of one side.
That additional space, clad with vertical wooden castle boarding to match the arena exterior, includes a tie up area for the horses and ponies, a secure tack room, toilet and changing area and a learning centre. The building is equipped with hoists to help wheelchair-bound riders and also features a viewing gallery and equipment store.
“We are proud of what we have provided for the team at the RDA and they are looking forward to using it to the benefit of the young people they support,” said Keith.