5 Challenges for Nottingham

We have had some interesting news in Nottingham over the last few weeks. Most of the news has been positive – with plenty of coverage in blogs and the press. But I think we have some real challenges, which I have prioritised. These are personal views and others will have a different view…

#1 – Shopping. Nottingham has great shopping (ranked 5th in the UK). And we have two shopping centres vying for position. In the last few weeks both Victoria Centre and Broadmarsh have announced ambitious extension plans. On the face of it this is great news – and should cement the City’s position. But … there is a danger that the extensions will suck the lifeblood out of the rest of the City. It already has a linear shape, we need to carefully manage the rest of the shopping – to avoid what we know locally as the Sadler Gate effect. The latter is what happened to Derby after Westfield opened the new centre.

#2 – High Speed Train. I have blogged about this on numerous occasions. In my view the City should be lobbying hard for a Station and I will continue to say so. This would put us on the map, Nationally and Internationally. The ability to get to London in under and hour will help the City. It doesn’t have to just be for the benefit of Nottingham. If located on the West of the City Derby can benefit too – as can those with access to the M1 motorway.

#3 Robin Hood. We need to adopt Robin again. A myth he may be, but Nottingham Castle and The Sheriff of Nottingham are not. We can use the story to benefit the City. It needs some new thinking and a complete overhaul of the tourism offer. Robin Hood has the capability to be a world-class brand which can be owned by the City. We need to sop being embarrassed by the story.

#4 Universities. We have two world-class Universities – who both do really excellent work and turn out brilliant students. We need to embrace the Universities and work with them. They give us great profile in the World. Keeping the students here adds to the pool of talent in the City.

#5 – Crime. Our crime statistics are getting better and they are nowhere near as bad as they are portrayed in the press. But we need to keep working on the figures and on the perception. The latter is just as important as the former. It is going to take some time to rid ourselves the unfounded titles of ‘Gun Crime Capital of the UK’.

Some of the se challenges are easy, others more difficult. All have the capability to make Nottingham a better place if we can sort them out?

2011 – the year the Banks will start lending again?

There may some good news for property according to a report by the Property Lending Forum, who released a ‘lending intention survey’ last week.

They spoke to the 20 most active Banks and have concluded:

* The Banks have a cash mountain of £18-21bn to lend in 2011
* That is nearly 50% more than in 2010
* 80% of those surveyed want to increase their lending
* 30% of those surveyed would have lent against secondary deals in 2010
* 70% will lend on secondary deals.

So that’s all of the good news then – and the recession is over – back to boom times?

Not quite.

Did you notice that the Banks would have lent in 2010 on secondary deals. They didn’t. Why? Well, firstly, people stopped asking them! Fear of refusal was a real issue – for some time it has not been worth asking the Banks for cash. We have got out of the habit. And then there was the issue of terms available – which anecdotally were hardly ‘generous’.

The ‘survey’ results seem to miss out some key points. The cost of money is a factor. In order to make it sound like a black art the Banks tell you that money needs to be bought at a margin of between 200 and 250 basis points. To you and me that’s 2.00% – 2.50% margin. Then there is a statement that ‘Banks are refining their client list’ – so you need to be a pretty safe bet! There’s also no mention of the loan to value ratio either. It is probably between 50-65% at the moment – so you need quite a lot of equity to get into the funded market.

All in all this ‘news’ is a start, but it’s not going to kick-start a lack-lustre market. And the headline might be a little bit ambitious?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Bank, Banks, Base Rate, Lending, Loan, Loan to value, recession

Energy Certificates – more sticks and less carrots

It’s as if a commercial building owner has time on his hands – and cash swilling around.

More legislation looks to be on its way – you can never have enough? This week The UK Green Building Council is advising Government on the latest idea. Not satisfied with Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) or Display Energy Certificates (DEC’s) we now need something else – a LES. A Landlords Energy Statement.

EPC’s are for buildings being marketed (in simple terms). DEC’s are for Public Buildings. Each has that funny little graphic showing you how good or bad the building is. Like you get on fridges in John Lewis.

I’m not sure that anyone is taking any notice of these, but perhaps I am being cynical. My experience of EPC is that they are a necessary evil – they make little difference to a deal.

So LES will be born and will be a DEC for all non-public buildings.

More Legislation will be needed. And another obligation on Landlords.

The issue here is that a Landlord has little or no control over his tenants use of energy. Tenants have little or no control over the Landlords building…

Apparently these little certificates will encourage landlords and tenants to cut energy use. My question to you – have you noticed the DEC’s in any public building you have been in? If, by chance you did, did it make any difference to your visit? Did you switch a light off, use a little flush? Thought not. Nor me.

If you want to motivate people it takes cash. Fuel poverty is likely to be the biggest changer of attitudes than any display certificate.

We need to constantly remind people that their behaviour needs to change. Like the Outerarc system. Not a bit of colourful paper on the wall. And we certainly don’t need any more legislation – well thought out or otherwise.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged DEC's, Display Energy Certificate, Efficient energy use, Energy, EPC's, Fuel poverty, , Landlord, Landlords Energy Statement, LES, Outerarc, tenant, UK Green Building Council

Cars and CO2 – make your mind up

I had to change my car last September and it was a sad sad day; I blogged about it here. The reason the car had to go was primarily tax, but it was a massive part of my carbon footprint. My replacement car was a much greener diesel Mercedes.

RS4 RIP - for no reason

The new car isn’t the same, but then the RS4 was something quite different and special. My E Class Mercedes does have a (hairdressers) drop top – which I am looking forward to over the next few months! The top was down last week.

I nearly choked on my orange juice at the weekend – the Daily Telegraph main story on Saturday was that Diesel Cars are now close to worshipping the Devil – as far as the green brigade are concerned. To the extent that they are worse for the environment than petrol cars, some Councils are now charging a premium for ‘dirty’ diesel engined cars. In some parts £150 per year more for a permit.

Make your bloody minds up. I thought my diesel produced less CO2?

My real issue with the whole of this sustainability movement is the lack of consistent and accurate data. I do accept that we need to reduce our carbon footprints as we have established a link with bad stuff. But this constant stream of conflicting data does nothing for the cause.

You might recall that I am doing some research with The University of Nottingham about values in green buildings. One of the early suggestions is that ‘the market’ have some concerns about the credibility of some of the technology – and whether all of the rules are necessary. The ‘East Anglia effect‘ still burns…

In the meantime – I am considering getting a Hummer

A unique iphone charger for Festivals

As we move out of Winter into Spring, it is nearly Festival time! June each year means that I get to travel to the Isle of Wight for my annual trip to see a variety of Bands. 2011 will be my eigth year in succession.

My mate and I do this festival thing properly – tents and camping gas stoves. No five star hotels in sight. Uncomfortable air beds work if you drink enough beer in the day! A diet of hot dogs and pig sandwiches ensure basic survival! Toilets are ‘interesting’. The Champagne Bar (pictured) is a rare chance to sit down!

But the biggest problem is that my wonderful iphone won’t last four days in a field without some serious power jolt. I have a small solar panel to ensure my green credentials tick is in the box, but this only works for a while. It is necessary to turn everything off on the phone – wifi, bluetooth et al. But in the last few days someone has told me about a genius idea…Orange Power Wellies, which have been created in collaboration with renewable energy experts GotWind, use a unique ‘power generating sole’ that converts heat from your feet into an electrical current. This ‘welectricity’ can then be used to re-charge your mobile phone.

The only problem is that I am on Vodaphone?

The Caves of Nottingham

Last week, for the first time in my life I visited the Caves beneath Nottingham Castle. For £2.50 you get to step back in time – in parts into what looks like an alien world.

Mortimers Hole

For those that don’t know Nottingham has more man-made caves than anywhere else in the UK. They were dwellings – and at one time it was reckoned that there were more people living underground than above ground. Many of the caves were inhabited until 1845, when the St. Mary’s Enclosure Act banned the rental of cellars and caves as homes for the poor.

The Caves at the Castle are an odd mix. They comprise some long tunnels which were used to bring up goods from the Trent Valley, others as storage areas for meat, wine and prisoners (including without doubt Robin Hood). There are some for waste (including human waste!) and some for short cuts to the pub!

Our guide was Colin, who led us on a circuitous route which eventually ends in Brewhouse Yard. It’s a precarious route in parts – not really suitable for the infirm. The sense of history is enormous. Especially the latter part – the 98m long Mortimers Hole- where Roger De Mortimer was allegedly taken down after being captured by the Kings troops in 1330. De Mortimer was at the time of his capture running the Country.

So what did I think?

I actually thought it was better than I was expecting – we are lucky to have this amount of history on our doorstep. But I couldn’t help that this is also a missed opportunity. There is little publicity about the caves. The story is well told but needs some more life to it. Stuffed dummies are not what is needed for 2011. My biggest issue is that we were left in Brewhouse Yard – where we had a huge hike back up to Castle.

I know that we have another Cave tour (at BroadMarsh centre) in Nottingham. But this is The Castle. Nottingham Castle. We need to make better use of these assets in the future.

It won’t surprise you to know that I have a plan… which is why I was there. Doing homework!

Nottingham – Broad marsh – Good news?

There was a re-launch this week of the Broad Marsh shopping scheme. The scheme has been altered from the previously approved scheme and is expected to provide 1.1m square feet of space (around three times bigger than the current centre).

This is obviously good for Nottingham and we should be celebrating. If this development comes off then this part of Nottingham will benefit hugely. We have waited for some considerable time. The Planning system rather conspired against Westfield (the owners) and when they had resolved that, the market had turned. The present centre is a rather sad place – and a poor advert for Nottingham – especially if you arrive by train and ‘find’ Broad Marsh as your first stop.

If all goes well, we could also have a new Tram, The ‘new’ Broad Marsh, a new E.On office and an enlarged Victoria Centre all within a reasonable timescale. This is, as the Nottingham Evening Post put it, the feel of a boom town!

Broad Marsh owners Westfield were already carrying out some alterations in a mini scheme, but this latest announcement follows on from the Victoria Centre’s decision to extend. And therein may lie an issue. Have Westfield announced their decision because of the Victoria Centre plans? The reality is that Victoria Centre already have a great product and far superior tenant mix. Is it easier to add to this than, frankly, to start from scratch at Broad Marsh?

That’s not to say Broad Marsh shouldn’t go ahead – it should and must. It will help this part of town – and build on the Southside. I just have a concern that the number of tenants won’t materialise to satisfy the space availability which will be provided by both Centre’s.

Nottingham has always had a powerful axis of shopping along Bridlesmith Gate and Clumber Street. The two centre’s at each end being beefed up will only strengthen this. But what then happens to the periphery? The areas like Wheeler Gate, Friar Lane, Long Row? And Hockley (which is already suffering). This will be a finely poised marketplace – and I hope that the sudden rush of stock can be met by new retailers. Westfield in Derby had a detrimental effect on Sadler Gate – which still suffers today – a couple of years after the opening.

Budget & Planning?

The Budget used to be a time when everyone gasped in horror as cigarettes and beer went up in price.

But times have changed, it’s not now all about money. Our quaint Planning system has grabbed some of the headlines in George Osbornes 2011 Budget.

The chancellor said that he will be “simplifying the planning system”. He continued, “Cumbersome planning laws stand in the way of new jobs….and….we will introduce a new presumption in favour of development so that the default answer is yes”.

It has been announced that there will be Use Class changes – allowing commercial property to be converted to residential without the need for planning permission. No detail was given, but this is a really interesting suggestion. The suggestion is that we need to play ‘catch up’ on the provision of new housing – and such a policy might add 250,000 houses to the available stock.

On the face of it, this sounds to be a great opportunity for owners of vacant property (this is aimed at offices) to get some form of residential consent.

I can see several flaws. Firstly, there has been a tailing off in demand of this type of conversion over the last few years. In general terms people have stopped wanting to live in flats. Secondly, we could have odd mixes of uses in areas where there is some logic in keeping residential away from offices – the uses don’t always mix! Finally, the costs of conversion to residential are often higher than the cost of new build; some of the major house builders are not geared up for this sort of work.

If you work in my Industry everyone will tell you horror stories about Planning (I have plenty). The Planning system does need a shake up and Committees need to be more accountable. At present (despite whet they tell you) Planning is a Political process. But offering this sort of wholesale legalised loop-hole might cause us more problems in the long-term than it solves in the short?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Budget, Budget 2011, commercial property, , George Osborne, , Planning permission, , Residential area

The Joy of email?

My mate John Lyle carried out an experiment a couple of weeks ago – where he stopped using his iphone. I do know that he has gone back to using it.
My last few weeks have featured quite a lot of travel – 22,500 miles and three different time zones. One of the trips was holiday but Cannes and Shanghai were work.

...and then you've got some more

I don’t think I am unusual in my office or profession in the amount of emails I get each day. I average somewhere between 90-110. I guess that a third are junk, another third are where I am cc’d and the rest are for me.

Email management has become a major part of the working day. And when you are away the matter becomes something of a major task. In China I had a slow internet connection which made dealing with the ‘management’ even more of a chore.

I have been reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell – ‘The Tipping Point‘ – which is really interesting. And in his final chapter he talks about an ‘immunity’ – meaning that we are becoming slightly removed from the process of communicating. Research has shown that people are more argumentative in email than in face to face meetings. They can hide behind an email. As we become inundated with email we tend to switch off. I know that I do. If I am faced with 100 emails then I need to find a quick way of filtering, so some get deleted without reading past the title – or in some cases the senders identity.
I frequently unsubscribe to sending lists but can’t help that this makes things worse. I think sometimes this just validates my address!

And my other bugbear is that the ‘reply to all’ button should be disabled. Especially from circular emails, viz. “Will you sponsor me in a cycle ride for xyz charity” – “yes” from 15 people is not funny.

And today I had an email from a Company offering me to do a mailshot to 500,000 businesses for £599. Half a million junk messages!

I read somewhere a suggestion that all staff be given an allowance – say £1 per day and were then charged 5p per email sent. So once you stepped over 20 it started to get deducted from your salary! Genius…

We win most active agent in the East Midlands!

My firm have won the Estates Gazette ‘most active agent’ award in 2010 – just announced!

As you might expect we are rather pleased with ourselves – and have awarded ourselves a giant pat on the back – we also did well by sector as you can see…

This was for the work done in 2010 – let’s hope we can keep this up in 2011…

And the first of the Awards is now being considered for 2011. The Estates Gazette Regional Property Advisor is determined by votes. We are delighted to have been nominated again – and if you think we are the best property adisors in the East Midlands you can vote for us here. Thanks if you do vote for us!