Sand and gravel
Robin Prior started in the gravel industry almost by accident. He grew up in Oxford but went to work for an engineering firm in Maidenhead, before turning his attention to gravel extraction on a site owned by his father-in-law.
Staying in the gravel industry, he pursued a career as a contractor, constructing equipment and extracting gravel for a number of other land owners. His success convinced him that the way forward was to buy his own sites and so, it was that Summerleaze formally came into being soon after the last war.
Over the intervening years, Summerleaze has successfully worked and restored a succession of sites in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, substantially contributing to the built environment in the Thames Valley.
At the end of the 1960's, restoration of former gravel workings provided the opportunity to diversify into landfill.
Landfill gas - the original renewable energy
During the 1980s, the landfill business paved the way for power generation from landfill gas. This business, known as Summerleaze RE-Generation, developed into the largest independently-owned renewable energy business in the UK following acquisitions and organic growth. In 2006 it produced over 310 GWh of electricity.
Following proposals for changes to waste treatment by the Government, the landfill-gas business was sold in January 2007.
The next generation of renewables - anaerobic digestion, wood pellets and green hydrogen
However, renewable energy remains a significant part of Summerleaze's focus, with the ongoing development of businesses in Anaerobic Digestion and Renewable Heat (in the form of wood pellets), and significant investment into research and commercialisation of Green Hydrogen. These elements - gravel, waste, and energy - are the key components of the Summerleaze of today.
Robin Prior worked until his death in 1978 at the age of 85. His son, Peter, had joined the business from school in 1962 and is now chairman/managing director. He is joined on the board by his sister Helen Robertson, sons Bruno and Jake Prior, Mike Lowe and Jeremy Malkinson.