Nottingham Castle – backwards we go?

There was disappointing news for Nottingham last week.

HLF-says_no

Our Heritage Lottery bid to upgrade the Castle failed. We were seeking nearly £15 towards the estimated £26m cost. Six out of 11 projects were successful in sharing £68m:

* Silverstone, home of British motor racing in Northamptonshire
* HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship of the First World War fleet, in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter
* Redruth’s old brewery transformed to celebrate Cornish heritage
* London’s Alexandra Palace – ‘The People’s Palace’ – with over 140 years worth of history
* 12th-century Auckland Castle in Durham, home to a spectacular collection of Zurbaran paintings
* Aberdeen Art Gallery and Cowdray Hall, the city’s public gallery with an impressive collection of early and contemporary works

We now have to wait another 12 months to re-submit.

You may know that I sat on the Sheriffs Commission back in 2008/9. Five years ago we were pressing for the Council to bring on board the private sector, that looks even more necessary now.

I was a little underwhelmed last year when I saw the plans for the first time. In fact, I blogged about it here.

We really need to aim higher and in my opinion we need to bring a different game to Nottingham. There is such an opportunity here – Robin Hood is a world brand and we just don’t use it. Five years have passed since we looked at some of the options. Lets not wait another five years!

In the meantime my good friend Johnny Lyle sent me a link about a theme park that looks like it might go ahead in Sherwood Forest. Pity they didn’t put that in the Castle?

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The City Message?

At MIPIM this year what struck me more than anything was how mixed the Nottingham message is. I suspect we are trying to be all things to all men and in a very crowded market-place this is not enough to differentiate ourselves.

Another unique feature for the city

Another unique feature for the city

We have in this fair city some amazing assets. We have some really good things in the pipeline around infrastructure (trams and trains in particular). But I’m not sure we have a clear message, a clear story or a coherent offer.

We need to make sure we become known for something other than the tram.

I have been thinking about this and I think the answer is either in ‘education’ or the ‘creative quarter’.

Our two Universities and two colleges (shortly to become three) are leading in the their class. Education is key to our future growth – it develops the best talent and, if we can keep the graduates or leavers here they can develop and grow. Although these are really good for the City they still don’t differentiate us.

But the creative quarter could. This is a group of talented individuals who work in that sector that is as big or small as you want it. It ranges from textile makers to TV programme makers. From Artists to Gamers. This does differentiate us. I think the answer is that we should really embrace the creative quarter and all who sial in her. We should make sure they get the support from the City they need – and we should shout from the roof tops about them.

The best talk I attended at MIPIM this year was that of Brian Cox. This was not a man who spoke about a place being open for business, but rather a man who spoke passionately about his area of interest – physics. He tied in the story of his life with the city he lives and works in – Manchester.

We need a Brian Cox character – and I’m sure there are lots of them.

MIPIM 2013

I must be getting old – I have just got my badge for MIPIM 2013 – and it is “Gold” – as a result of me having been som many times! I think this is my 10th year. It is my third year of being at the beating heart of Team Nottingham.

I blogged back in January (here) that we had made a decison to go the the South of France to shout about Nottingham’s wares. And in two weeks time we will be there.

It has been a rocky road – as is so often the case when you have so many parties – but the team is a strong as it has ever been. It includes Boots – as well as some of the usual suspects – Gleeds, CPMG, Rizc McCay, UKR, Morgan Tucker, Cartwrght Communications, Geldards, Miller Birch, CPW and the City Council. My firm, Innes England also play a key role. In the team you can get a cradle to grave service if you want to come to Nottingham!

We are delighted that Peter Richardson Chairman of the D2N2 LEP will be the guest speaker at a dinner we are hosting on Tuesday evening – in front of 60 invited investors / developers as well as the team. We are having a drinks party for 200 on Wednesday and brunch on the thursday. I have seen the guest list – it is impressive!

The Leader of the City Council is cycling to Cannes again – raising money for Charity – you can see the details here.

I already have a full diary for the week – breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Canape sickness is quite common!

But the team also have some surprises for guests this year – as well as some incredible ipad applications showcasing the city’s assets! We even have a film produced y my good friends at Antenna.

All that we need to do is come back with a bunch of leads and leave everyone there with the impression that the only place they need to think about investing in is … Nottingham….

MIPIM 2013 – the countdown has begun….

It’s that time of year when our attention is turned to promoting this fair city in Cannes. Lovingly known as MIPIM, the world turns it’s eyes, in inward investment terms at least, on the filmic Cote D’Azur harbour-town of Cannes.

turkey_MIPIM_2013

The private sector have supported the City for the last two years – at a time when spending on such things was not seen as ‘appropriate’ – particularly in light of the cuts going on in local government. We created ‘Team Nottingham’ – a loose affiliation of like-minded business folks from a round the town to peddle the wares of the city.

It was a bit like three men in a boat – except the boat is now more like a sleek yacht – with lots of men and women! We have engineers, developers, architects, QS’s, surveyors, PR types, green-types, a chemist(!), journalists and inward-investment experts. It’s a pretty powerful team!

We already have a bigger budget than 2011 – we are going as part of a LEP-wide team. This will support the wider region and give Nottingham and Derby a presence in the ‘bunker’ (aka Exhibition Hall). We are also arranging a number of high profile events – including a formal dinner and our, now famous, drinks reception. We have another event in the making too.

Boots and Paul Smith have helped us enormously – and these world brands will make our life easier in selling the City.

The team are really fired up – we are in the process of writing a dedicated app to show off the city on iPads. A film has been commissioned…

Over the last two years it has been challenging to put this show on – but we have a brilliant team now. We should be able to hit Cannes hard!

MIPIM 2013

I have been a little quiet on the MIPIM front for a while. This is partly because we were unsure as to whether we could pull off another private sector event – as we have done at the last two Cannes property shows.

MIPIM_2011_tbBIG

Unfortunately the organisers don’t make life easy for the sort of proposal we have – they are more used to dealing with big regions and cities across the globe. A group of mad-keen enthusiasts selling a City in the midlands is a bit below their radar. They don’t get my funding model (lot’s of private sector types throwing cash in a pot to help a cash-strapped council!)

But we have overcome the difficulties and raised over £30,000 to make sure Nottingham is represented on the world stage. We will be in Cannes in March 2013.

We are working on how we promote Nottingham – but it will include a 5* dinner – which will have an exclusive invite list. We’ll also have our ever-popular drinks reception too. Brunch will probably be our final event – in this four day show.

We have some new sponsors this year Team Nottingham now looks like:

Innes England
Gleeds
CPMG Architects
Couch Perry Wilkes
Rizc McCay
Morgan Tucker
UK Regenration
Miller Birch
Geldards
Cartwright Communications
Boots
Nottingham City Council / Invest in Nottingham Club

We have much work to do, but we all consider the prize worthy of the effort (and cash).

I’ll update the blog as we get more information – in the meantime if you are going to be at MIPIM 2013 – do let us know!

Nottingham – new apprenticeship scheme

I was at Antenna in the week for the launch of Nottingham’s Apprenticeship Hub. The evening was introduced by Sir John Peace – he’s a busy man. He chairs three FTSE 100 companies: Standard Chartered, fashion house Burberry and local credit-checking firm Experian. In July of this year he became Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. A giant in the local community.

His pre-amble to the launch of the new apprenticeship scheme was inspiring; he is great public speaker. No notes. No ‘ers’. He spoke passionately about how we get people back into work – especially young people. He was joined by Councillor Nick McDonald from the City and by Craig Chettle – CEO of the Antenna Media Group.

It was a big audience – of businesses folks and representatives from the FE and HE sectors.

The intention is to create a simple ‘hub’ where both potential employers and employees (apprentices) can ‘meet’ and be matched. It’s a good plan as the current arrangements are a little disparate – as I found out a few years ago when I tried to employ an apprentice. The arrangements are really quite confusing.

The other good news is that Craig Chettle launched the Confetti Media Group’s Creative and Digital Media Apprenticeship programme. This will be a first for Nottingham – and sounds really exciting. If I were starting out this is exactly the sort of thing I would do.

You can read about the hub here. It is good to see that there are already jobs advertised on the NottinghamJobs website.

We do have a duty to get our young people into work – and any initiative to do so should be saluted and celebrated. It was a good evening!

Trinity Square … part two!

If you mention Trinity Square in the Nottingham property circle you are likely to see a rasing of eyebrows. No one wants to have much to do with it. The developer nor the Planners! It is an unmitigated distater in planning terms. I blogged about it some time ago here.

You have to go to have a look to believe it – a sort of Plaza, but not. An inside out design – just horribly wrong! It should win an anti-urbansim award. Jon Collins, leader of the Council once described it as one of the worst pieces of urban design he had seen in the city in 20 years.

But there was news this week that the City Council have decided to do something about it – it is public space after all. They have run a competition and throw some money at it. £500,000 has been talked about. And some big names have thrown their hat in the ring!

One is from Gustafson Porter- designers of the (new) Old Market Square.The Square is regarded as a massive success – a flexible space than can hold concerts, markets and even a beach!

Trinity Square needs some tlc – It is surrounded by some really good leisure uses – restaurants / clubs and cinemas. This can be great space – and place for people to congregate.

Well done the Council for taking the matter in hand – I look forward to seeing the winning design – not just on paper, but built!

There’s no such thing as a free (garden waste collection)

Nottingham City Council send me a little magazine every so often. It’s called the Nottingham Arrow and extends to 24 pages – I know this because I read it cover to cover. Actually I don’t read it all – it normally goes in the bin. I know why the City produce it – its for those folks without email. I would prefer they sent me an email…

But the Autumn edition contains important information about bins. I have three. One for rubbish and the others for other rubbish. One is garden rubbish – its brown. The announcement proudly tells us that we mustn’t “forget that [your] free garden waste collection stops over the winter months. Free. Zip. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

How come it’s free to me?

I know it saves the Council £180,000 each year not to collect those pesky autumn leaves until next April.

But I do wonder who is paying if it’s not me? Are the council doing this out of the goodness of their hearts? Clearly as a local ratepayer i’m not paying – as it’s free?

I don’t mind a bit of spin or poetic licence – but I think this might be pushing the bounds just a little bit!

Everything the City Council do – the Ratepayer pays for. Period.

Nick Clegg – frustrated with progress?

Nick Clegg was in Nottingham last week – answering questions about a whole range of topics.

I was interested though in one of his comments made. He was quoted as saying, “I find it frustrating that the things we agree to do with Nottingham and other Cities takes so long to happen”. It was in answer to a question about the three Nottingham Enterprise Zones – announced in part this March. He went on to say, “Shovels in the ground are more important than word on pages”.

This is a real problem. Government announces lot’s of things. Last week it was revealed that only £60m out of the £470m handed to intermediary bodies has reached projects.

This isn’t a blog aimed at Nottingham. But the public sector is very different from the private sector. My little part of the world operates at a (sometimes) frightening pace. We have to be fleet of foot. We have to respond instantly. We live and die by the decisions we make. But make decisions we do. As someone once told me, you’re paid for your opinions not your doubts. Whilst it might be easier to say no than to say yes, you tend not to go very far.

So what are the issues?

Well, Council’s tend to be risk averse. They are answerable to an electorate, so it’s not surprising that taking risks is regarded as a bad thing for keeping your job. In their position I would probably do the same!

They also have processes, which tend to be quite long (thorough some might say). Flat structures they are not. Decisions by committee are always going to be more complex – especially when you mix in a bit of political gun-powder.

But there is another major issue – the lack of resources. Our Council’s have undergone a massive change – with a significant reduction in manpower. They are massively under-resourced. Some might argue that they were over-staffed in the past – that may be so. But, they are now operated on such a shoestring that it impacts on the ability of them to perform basic duties.

We share Clegg’s concerns and frustrations, but there are lot’s of reasons this isn’t working at the moment!

MIPIM 2013

Nottingham will be represented at MIPIM 2013. For those who don’t know what MIPIM is, it’ the de-facto world property show where Countries, Regions and Cities vie for profile – and critically for inward investors.

In the last few years as a region we have seen Derby go from strength to strength and Leicester gently bow out. Both look to return in 2013.

So what about Nottingham. After the austerity measures in 2010 the City decided it could not be seen to be taking Councillors and Officers on ‘holidays’ the South of France. The press were having a field day with stories comparing poor residents to suntanned Officers. It was pretty cheap stuff. It said a lot about the UK press actually – cheap shots, inaccurate but sensational. And the Sun Readers dream story. Outraged he was (and probably still is).

The problem with the show is that it is a known success story. Nottingham has had successes from is. As have the private sector who go too. It is a giant market place.

Team Nottingham are a group of private sector companies who stepped up to the plate in 2011 and 2012 – to represent Nottingham. We paid for promotional material, but more significantly took Officers of the Council to the show. We fielded around 20 people. They worked the place and networked night and day.

The private sector group of us met last week – and the Council representatives were present. We know that the City are keen to be represented at the show. What we don’t know just yet wis whether they will have any money to promote the City again -as they have done in the past.

What I do know from my good friends in the private sector is that we will make sure Nottingham does get profile. It was refreshing to hear the unwavering support for the event. I’ll post an update when I know what will happen…