Farming – a dying trade

The average age of a farmer is 58 in the UK – and the number of younger farmers is dwindling. In 2009 it was also estimated that two farms per week were selling up.

I must admit, it’s not a life for me. A 4am wake up call to milk a herd of hundreds of cows wouldn’t be my idea of fun. Especially in the short days of winter! Not that the farmer has short days – it is said that they can work 100 hours per week! The weather plays a big part in a farmers life. Wet and dark can’t be a lot of fun?

When you see on Countryfile (an essential watch!) Adam Henson struggling with the lottery of TB – you wonder what they do get from the job. I guess that the outdoor life is the main attraction and a love of animals (although they have to remain dispassionate) must be part too.

I really admire Adam and small farmers – they work incredibly hard – and some times the rewards seem rather small? I have heard it said that it is the factory farms that are crippling the business. I blogged here previously about one such super-farm being proposed in Nocton.

I am the first to admit that the free market usually sorts things out, but I do have my reservations about bigger always being better. The likes of the major supermarkets like Tesco are not always the best for us. Just have a look at my mate John Lyle’s blog here (not about farming but about the cheap drink argument). It is the same principle.

We really do need to think hard about the future – and whether we want all of our food (crop or livestock) to come from factories – or whether we want to make sure that local farms still exist. There are lot’s of green arguments about farming locally – including urban farms.

But to have any sort of future at all we need young people to get into farming. And it needs to happen soon. Or it will be too late – the present farming generation won’t be able to pass on their expertise – and that will be lost forever.

Roll on Summer…

Great news this week as my tickets have arrived for my seventh Isle of Wight Festival!

Slumming it at the Isle of Wight!

My mate Jez and I have made this an annual ritual to the Island which in some ways is stuck in a different time.

But for one weekend in June each year thousands flock to see famous and not-so-famous groups ply their trade. We reckon to see around 35-40 bands which have famously included: Bowie, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Police and REM.

There have also been some suprises – Newton Faulkner doing an acoustic of Bohemian Rhapsody – accompanied by 60,000 people in his choir. And Snow Patrol playing their biggest ever set – when they were virtual unknowns. The Magic Numbers were also brilliant – they too were pretty much unknown.

But this year will be a bit of a trip down memory lane – with Spandau Ballet, Suzi Quattro, Shakespeare Sister, The Alarm, Blondie, Suzanne Vega, The Members and Squeeze all playing!

Jay-z, The Strokes and Paul McCartney are headline acts. But I am looking forward to seeing Bombay Bicycle Club, Vampire Weekend, Biffy Clyro and The Editors most.

We do this trip properly – tents and disposable bbq’s (not very green I know). We tend to take beer but not too much food. There’s plenty of burger vans – for a healthy diet.

The toilets are legendary. To be avoided if at all possible! But as Festival First members we do get a shower block – although it’s not 5*.

We have vowed that if it ever ‘Glastonbury‘ rains we will call it a day, but we have only had around 10 minutes of rain in all seven years! Will this year be the year…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Biffy Clro, Blondie, Bombay Bicycle Club, , , Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, REM, Shakespeare Sister, Spandau Ballet, Suzanne Vega, The Alarm, The Members, The Police, The Rolling Stones, The Strokes, Vampire Weekend

IGot my lifetime allowance

I was in London today on business and happened to be near the Apple store on Regent Street…. which was a mistake. Well, not a mistake, just expensive!

My baby ipad - born today!

Although there was a queue, the security staff suggested it was a 10 minute wait. So I did – and promptly became the owner of my lifetime limit of Ipads! One wifi and one 3GS model. Mine is the latter.

The helpful Apple man who assisted me with my purchase said that some people had queued from 12 midday on Thursday! By the time the shop opened yesterday there were 1,500 people in the queue. He was not sure how many units had been delivered or sold by 2.30pm, but someone else suggested 10,000!

What do I think? I think it an amazing bit of kit. I had thought about a Kindle, but was worried about the limits. But this toy has viable and useful Apps. The screen resolution is HD TV quality. It is fast and has flash memory.

It is like my iphone, but a bit bigger. I am yet to find out about battery life- but they are suggesting 8 hours.

I can see that my trusty little MacBookPro may become redundant. Although I won’t be able to have my entire itune library on it – it is aroung 150Gb ‘small’ and my ipad is only 32gB.

Once again, Steve Jobs find a niche in the market and exploit it. They make products that you want – even if you don’t need them! And yesterday Apple overtook Microsoft as the biggest technology company.

Call me a geek if you like – but I love it!


There’s an essential accessory for the ipad here.

Invest in Nottingham – part two!

Yesterday I went to the Invest in Nottingham day – this time actually back home! It makes a change from MIPIM and London.

The Market Square - part of the walking tour

My day started at the new NTU conference centre – where lunch was served! Then I wandered off into town with Nigel Turpin, one of the towns planners (and prolific cyclist!). The walk around the town was interesting – and I learned things about my home town! We took in NTU, Theatre Square, The Market Square, The Council House (with a tea stop with the Sheriff and the Mayor!), The Lace Market, Broad Marsh and finally back to Loxley House.

It was interesting to hear Nigel’s take on some of the Planning issues – and it was good to have some of the subtle design features pointed out. These included the de-cluttering of the City’s streets and the incorporation of the tram stops into the pavements. We also had a lively group who were questioning of some of the Planning decisions!

Then we went off to Loxley House – Nottingham City Council’s new home. Various talks were given – including by the new Director of Planning Simon Smales, Steve Wood from Westfield (owners of Broad Marsh) and Chris Deas from NET. I always have a chat with Chris – his dad was my first boss at Home Brewery in 1979!

I also had a look around Jane Todd‘s (CEO of the City) office … it’s open plan in the thick of it!

It was a busy day, very well attended and a positive look at Nottingham. It was good to see so many of Nottingham’s professional brethren out and ‘selling’ the City – alongside the dedicated team at Invest in Nottingham!

We once again proved that we are the friendliest people in the world – probably!

Maths and surveying and mortgages

I was interested in a leading article published by the President of the RICS, Max Crofts in this months RICS Business magazine. The thrust of his argument was that employers have told him that in the UK surveyors numerical skills are below the standard of those in Europe and way behind those in Asia.

Obviously maths are a key part of our work. We rely quite heavily on computers and calculators to g help with the maths. But, hopefully we only use the maths as a means to an end. It has often been said that valuation is an art not a science. Max’s view is that valuation is a craft…honed by years of experience.

And then I was listening to Radio 4 at lunchtime yesterday – You and Yours carried a story about the possibility of Mortgage lenders making applicants take a basic mathematical skills test! Winifred Robinson was put on the spot by Prof. Stefan Mayer in the USA with the following test questions:

1. A shop sells all items at half price. A sofa was£300 – how much it is now?
2. If the chance of getting a disease is 10%, in a group of 1000 people – how many people will get ill?
3. Second hand car is for sale at £6000 it is 2/3 rd the price it was when new. What was the new price.
4. If 5 people all have the winning lottery ticket – and the total prize is £2m – how much does each get?
5. You have £200 in an account and it earns 10% pa interest – how much would you have at the end of two years.

Easy really? Well, easy when you are not under pressure, but live on the Radio, with no paper to scribble on, Winifred had to work through the questions – especially the fourth one!

Apparently there was a frightening correlation between people who do badly with the maths test with mortgage default! This followed a study of the American sub-prime market by Columbia University.

I can’t see applicants being at all keen to do the test – especially surveyors!

Nottingham and the new Government

I blogged a few days ago about the new Government and in particular that impact on property.

Castle College Nottingham

As more news has emerged over the weekend, it seems that two local employers may also be hit.

I think we had known that our RDA, emda were at risk as the Tories had always stated that the work they did could be done by the town halls. But the National College for School Leadership might also be at risk – the latter costs £105m p.a. to run. The writing might be on the wall as their web-site announces “A new UK Government took office on 11th May. As a result the content on this site might not reflect current Government Policy”.

I have had many dealings with emda and have to say that I think that the Government is wrong. They have a valuable place in the local economy and have had a real impact on our locality. I had first hand experience of their impact when the Highfields Automotive and Engineering Academy (owned by Castle College) was built. emda provided a significant grant to make the facility happen. It did create real jobs and attracted Toyota to Nottingham. It is said for every £1 it spends £9 gets added to the local economy – and in 2008-9 some 2,630 jobs were created or safeguarded in the region.

I also had dealings with the National College when it was built in 2000. I haven’t been involved since, but in theory it was a laudable idea – getting a National high quality service operating – maintaining a consistent standard in a purpose built property. My issue with the building at the time was the amount spent on it – which was, as I recall, one of the most expensive education buildings ever constructed in Nottingham – over 50% more than anything else!

What happens next will no doubt unfold, but the loss of these two institutions will not be great for Nottingham…

And sometimes the maxim, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” would seem to be quite appropriate?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Nottingham Tagged Castle College, emda, , Highfields Utomotive and Engineering Training Academy, National College for School leadership

Lost – the end of an era!

On 22 September 2004 I sat down to watch the pilot episode of Lost. And call me sad if you like, but I have watched every single episode since!

And last night I watched (with my son Jak) the two and a half hour episode. That made 121 all together! I didn’t get up at 5am on Monday to watch the simulcast with America – anyone who knows me will realise I don’t do mornings and 5am is not even close to the morning.

The series was filmed in Oahu, Hawaii and was supposed to be one of the most expensive series ever made. At one point they had over 15 million viewers per episode in the USA. Oahu looks stunning – and is on my wish list now.

It has been quite a roller coaster ride and it has only been in the last few weeks that the real story has begun to make any sense at all. The finale is very clever, emotional and a testament to the writers. I think the characters were really well crafted (especially the original ones – Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hugo) and I think they have become part of the family! It took us some time to work out that we were sometimes going forward in time, other times backwards and then a sideways time slip – where the plane didn’t crash.

I still think there are some unanswered questions (the Polar Bear?). And I can’t decide whether the hours have been justified. It’s all a bit like the Bible (and sorry to spoil it if you haven’t read it) – they all die in the end.

I apologise if you didn’t watch it – you really had to be there… I would suggest that you catch up on DVD, but 121 hours is quite a lot to watch. It has been infuriating, funny, sad and cliff-hanging! But most of all – entertaining!

My son Jak and I have faithfully watched each episode from the beginning (he was only 11 when it started!) I am not sure what we are going to do now that it has finished…

We have discussed going to Oahu, to see if we can find some more clues!

The Cameron & Clegg show

So, after just a couple of weeks in (shared) power, the Con-Dem-Nation packages have emerged.

TweedleCam & TweedleClegg

And from a property perspective, there are some interesting statements in the Freedom, fairness and responsibility document

Some of the statements:

We will explore a range of measures to bring empty homes into use.

We will promote shared ownership schemes and help social tenants and others to own or part-own their home.

We will promote ‘Home on the Farm’ schemes that encourage farmers to convert existing buildings into affordable housing.

We will create new trusts that will make it simpler for communities to provide homes for local people.

We will require continuous improvements to the energy efficiency of new housing.

We will provide incentives for local authorities to deliver sustainable development, including for new homes and businesses.

We will review the effectiveness of the raising of the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers.

They have also said that they will create a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development in the Planning system”. I am not sure exactly what this means – does this mean we can have a mud hut in place of our Grade I listed buildings…

And as at Church Lukas pointed out to me last week, they are going to launch a national tree planting campaign, which should solve all of our problems!

There is quite a lot on the Green Agenda, which is laudable, but we really need to sort out the facts form the urban myths, before we set off on more targets. We cannot keep issuing edicts and aspirations without a very clear level playing field. We need the myths busted so that we are really clear on:

1. what is really happening to the planet.
2. what we can realistically do about it – and this is not just us alone in the UK!
3. what technologies work and which ones don’t – including the payback periods.

British Airways R.I.P.

Is it just me or are the staff at BA (and the Union Unite) missing the point.

A rare sight - a BA plane off the ground

Last week Unite won at Appeal following an earlier High Court injunction to prevent the strikes. I must admit when hearing the initial verdict on the Radio, I was surprised at BA winning on what seemed to be a very minor technicality (reporting the results) – clearly the Appeal Judges thought the same!

The strike is evidently about pay, conditions and jobs. The two sides have had a bit of a spat.

I have flown BA a few times and I have heard other people talk about the conditions – which include basic pay of c.£22,000 pa, reduced air travel costs and 12 days sick leave. Sounds OK to me? And if you don’t like it as Norman Tebbit might have said.. ‘On Yer [Plane]‘…

But here’s the point – the 5 day strike about to start tomorrow will just add to the woes of BA who announced losses on Friday of £531m in the 12 months to March – BA’s biggest loss since it was privatised in 1987. The amount attributable to the strikes is estimated at an eye watering £43m!

Have the staff and their Union, who represent them, not realised that this is commercial suicide?

Would I fly BA at the moment, risking being stranded or not being able to fly? Not a chance. So both BA management, the Union and the staff need to realise that their customers are looking elsewhere! BA is our National carrier – representing the UK around the world. Pretty soon all they will be able to do is fly flags.

The volcanic ash cloud is still prevalent, we don’t need any more risks!

p.s thanks to Adrian Pingstone for the image!

Green values – not much further forward?

At the end of March I went to a breakfast meeting at Nottingham Trent University – the subject matter was whether green buildings had a higher value than buildings that are not green. I blogged about it here.

The sort of green I do understand as a valuer

I also blogged a couple of weeks ago about the role of a valuer, simply reporting on the market. As I have said before we don’t make the market – we do have to interpret it.

This week I was at Gleeds in Nottingham – another breakfast seminar examining the impact of green leases on value but also a take on the legal aspects. Valuers came in for a bit of a beating! The suggestion was that valuers need to understand green issues more to be able to educate occupiers. I couldn’t let this go as this is slightly unfair. I suggest again that as a valuer we are only interpreting the market – we don’t make it!

The real education needs to be at the occupier level. There are some green evangelists out there – and we have some as tenants. But the vast majority of occupiers in my view place ‘green issues’ or ‘sustainability’ fairly low on their shopping list. My experience is that it is still location and price first – by some distance!

But some fair points were made. We still don’t really have a clear understanding on what a green building is. There are different measurement tools including BREEAM and EPC certificates. But ‘green’ means different things to different people. There is too much EcoBling and much of the technology is still quite immature.

We need much better and clearer information – in the meantime there is no real evidence that a green building is worth more than a non-green building! In fact there is some hearsay evidence that the opposite might be true – at the moment…