Waterworld comes to life?

Do you remember the Kevin Costner film Waterworld? It’s an apocalyptic tale of a man’s search for dry land. It wasn’t great from memory. Very 80′s – big hair and that was just the boys.

I’m always interested in seeing new ideas for architecture and in this case the architecture has a Waterworld theme. You need a lot of money to build a City in the water – and the man who was angel investor to successful start ups like Facebook and PayPal, Peter Thiel is one of those people! He has funded a venture by Seasteading Institute which will make it possible to built small nations which will float the Ocean.

His motive is to create new places to live which are new places. They are intended to have their own laws and be self-sufficient. It is hoped that they will have their own micro-economies. The theory is to test out how an autonomous society can live and then introduce the winning concept to the ‘real world’.

Some of the prototypes are being considered for small groups of less than 300 people, but the theory is that there could be thousands living on such floating ‘Countries’. They will be able to move around the Oceans in the same way that Oil Rigs are moved into position. I guess if you start from scratch you can design in the infrastructure and environmental properties from day one…

The Institute are offering a prize for the first Seastead – their website suggests, “The Poseidon Award is our prize for the establishment of the first independent seasteading community, and the seed for the world’s first ocean city-state. It is a milestone for the seasteading movement — major enough to represent critical progress for seasteading, yet achievable in a relatively short period of time.

It sounds a fascinating project and very sic-fi. But is this the future of ‘buildings’ or is it bigger than that – is this a future ‘society’.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged facebook, Kevin Costner, Oil platform, Paypal, Peter Thiel, seastead, Seasteading Institute, Waterworld

The bombsite Britain tax

Last week there was news that The British Property Federation made a public call for the property industry to back a petition calling for the empty rates hike to be scrapped. The federation says this could cost businesses in the UK an estimated £400m a year.

The tax on empty properties is known in the Industry as the ‘bombsite Britain’ tax, full business rates are levied on unoccupied offices, shops and warehouses and has famously led to millions of square feet of property being demolished since its introduction.

The suggestion from the politicians that it encourages Landlords to let their property and not leave it empty is rather misjudged.

The petition asks the government to raise the Empty Property Rates (EPR) threshold from £2,600 Rateable Value (RV) and reinstate the £18,000 RV threshold previously in place.

The Directgov website recently introduced a provision meaning that if the petition attracts 100,000 signatures then it will be debated in parliament. The empty rates petition, despite being launched only last week, has already attracted over 1300 supporters.

The link is here

I encourage you to sign up. empty Rates hurst the Industry in lots of ways. It is penal at a time when landlords can’t afford the penalties. We have seen some demolition of perfectly good buildings – leading to gappy-teeth street scenes in some places.

The other major issue is the developers can’t afford to get new buildings to a pint where they are ready for occupation – as the minute they do, they pay Rates. Sometimes this means that we miss out on inward investment opportunities.

This tax needs revision – the property Industry doesn’t need any more bad news…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man!, Nottingham Tagged BPF, , Business and Economy, Business rates in England and Wales, Directgov, Landlord, Non-Domestic Rates, Tax, Vacant property

Nottingham in twenty images

You have probably guessed that I work in a visual way; I find it easier to draw something than write about it. I can interpret drawings without a second thought. I use photography every day – as a record, aide-memoire and visual aid.

This might be another one for the list?

A couple of days ago we were discussing in the office the need to brighten up our sales details. Often the buildings we are marketing are not entirely photogenic. It’s difficult to make an industrial unit ‘pretty’. We have decided that we should incorporate some stock shots to brighten things up a bit.

We were trying to work out a list of photographs which sum up Nottingham. Buildings or things which are unmistakably Nottingham. I managed the following list – does it fairly represent us? Have I missed anything?

Harts Hotel
Nottingham Castle
Robin Hood Statue
Castle Road
Playhouse (including Anish Kapoor dish)
Loxley House
The Cornerhouse
Nottingham Trent University Newton and Arkwright Buildings
Victoria Centre
Clumber Street
Market Square
The Tram
Brian Clough statue
Paul Smith
The Contemporary
Broadmarsh Shopping Centre
Ice Stadium
Royal Centre
Broadway Cinema

Does this sum Nottingham up? Visually?

Source Code – brilliant

I can’t imagine what it must be like for Duncan Jones – son of David Bowie. The expectations must have been rather high, assuming he wasn’t given and didn’t fritter his fathers money away. I read an article about him a few weeks ago and was impressed that he had deliberately avoided music (he plays no instruments). He has set off on his own route in life.

But he is pretty hot property in the film world currently.

I loved Moon – his first proper film. It is a clever Sci-Fi story and was one of the first films I saw on Blu-Ray. The set was very minimalist – but it worked well.

His latest film is Source Code. It is also Sci-Fi, but the story is even more clever than Moon. I watched it on Blu-Ray on Friday night. It is a cross between Groundhog Day, Sliding Doors and Inception. I am always amazed by Film-writers ideas – where do they come from? You do have to concentrate. As with all good films there is a twist at the end. It cost $32m to make and made $54m at the box office.

If you get the chance – watch it. It is worth seeing.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged David Bowie, Duncan Jones, Groundhog Day, Inception, Jake Gyllenhaal, Moon, Sliding Doors, Source Code

The good news was short lived….

I blogged about the potential disaster I had with my trusted AppleMac Pro. It managed to get patched up two months ago. But in the last week it was clear that it was not a terribly happy patient.

It has had it’s motherboard and hard drive replaced, but it was becoming unstable and I decided that I couldn’t risk being without it. It has lasted me around 4 years so (in computer terms) it has done well.

So, on the day that Steve Jobs announced his retirement as CEO from Apple, I spent some more hard earned cash with the Company (it didn’t help their share price!) and bought a new iMac 27″ machine. The transfer of data took 11 hours and 3 minutes! This was perhaps mostly my ginormous iTunes library – all 300gb of it (51,000 songs).

It was pretty painless – except that at the moment I can’t print, as MacOS Lion doesn’t like our Canon machine. They don’t speak which is disappointing as they are both new and shiny?

The screen is astonishing – and makes my other 23″ monitor look positively ‘soft’….

I have also got more of my desk back as it is so slim.

My colleagues keep asking me if I fancy going back to the dark side of PC’s. No thanks.

My next resolution is to start listening to my whole iTunes library. I have worked out that if I start this morning and leave it running, we will have played everything by 12th January next year – assuming I leave it on for 24 hours each day…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged 27", , AppleMac Pro, computer, iMac, itunes, Jigsaw 24, PC, Personal computer, , Tim Cook

You need Planning Permission – of course Sir….

The Government are currently consulting on a Draft National Planning Policy, by all accounts it’s creating quite a kerfuffle!

The document tries to set out some key parameters – one of which suggests that there will be a presumption in favour of sustainable development. On the face of it this sounds admirable – we should be encouraging ‘green’ developments – but this policy goes a bit further than that as I read it. It is a short document – around 50 pages – down from the 1,000 plus we had before.

The granting of Planning Permission for ‘green’ development doesn’t come with many other strings as far as I can see. In other words if it’s green you can have permission? Is this what was intended? Or is that one of those great political statements as opposed to a great policy statement?

There are good arguments on both sides. On the one hand it will probably surprise you to know that the UK only has around 9% of its area developed. Thats 91% ‘available for development’? Our towns are fairly well constrained – often by green belts I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. The amount of green space in our cities has been decreasing as we cram more of the built environment onto constrained parts of the Country.

But the other argument runs that our Countryside should be sacrosanct – we don’t need urban sprawl. Where is has happened it has failed. I saw this in Los Angeles which is a fine example of how not to ‘plan’ a place. We do have space in our Cities – even if it needs renewing and updating. But that is a good thing. Keeping communities together help with critical mass for shopping, transport and other infrastructure.

The argument is going to run – the consultation ends on 17th November… It will be interesting to see what the feedback is.

I don’t believe it!

I feel the need to warn you that this is a seriously grumpy old man blog post. If you need cheering up try this. If you want to throw the computer out of the window, read on…

It seems that the Cornwall Development Company for advertising a £19,689 job for an Olympic Torch Relay project officer. The job description is here.

This needs investigating and I have. It seems that the role will involve co-ordinating the flame’s passage through Cornwall on 19 May next year “stimulating excitement” for the London 2012 Games. It’s a fixed term contract runs from October to May and will see the job-winner work alongside Visit England, Locog and Cornwall Council in the build-up to the event.

I am not joking. This is a real job. You have to ‘organise’ the (a) day next year. I’m sure it’s going to need a lot of organising?

As you might imagine this has created a bit of controversy. The Development Company have been moved to defend the decision to create the role. Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, the tourism arm of the organisation, said it was a “small amount of money” when compared with how much the county could make by running a well-organised publicity campaign.

It is also a non-job Mr Bell. I think I could ‘organise’ the visit of the torch in a couple of hours.

Having smiled first and then become irritated with such a stupid situation I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

I have applied for the job. I’ll let you know how I get on…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Cornwall Development Compnay, Council Cuts, job, officer, Olympic torch, waste, waste of time

We shall surely miss them?

It was a difficult week – with two losses, both coming on the same day. It seems that the world has moved on and we no longer have any need for them – so they have been removed. Almost permanently.

A charabanc - quite common really?

Charabanc and Aerodrome have this week been erased from the Collins Dictionary. It seems we have stopped using them. I think this is a pity as both are quite superb.

They are words from a bye-gone age, but are a key part of our transport history. The Charabanc (I thought it was spelt with a “g” at the end) comes from the French, char-a-bancs, meaning carriage with wooden benches. I guess our cars today with their leather seats are a long way from these fore-runners to the modern motor car?

But Aerodrome needn’t go surely? I quite like the moniker Heathrow Aerodrome. It conjures up romantic images of pilots with handlebars moustaches and sheepskin jackets. Perhaps Heathrow is a step too far – but what of Donington Aerodrome? It would stop all the nonsense about the questions about EMA, East Midlands, Nottingham East Midlands Airport, Nottingham – Derby – Leicester Airport ad nauseum…

This is reversible, if enough of us to start using the words agin. I’ll do my bit here and I encourage you to do so!

They are much better words than “Innit” – surely?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged aerodrome, charabanc, Collins, dictionary, removed, words

360 degree appraisals

I think it was the late 1980′s amongst the buzz of business-babble-speak when someone came up with the idea of ‘appraisals’. Then these became 360 degree appraisals where the member of staff was allowed to appraise the boss. I’m pleased to tell you that in 32 years working I have studiously avoided all such things. I don’t agree with them.

But the world has moved on and we now have the internet. So we can move way from the simple employer:employee relationship appraisals. We now have web sites dedicated to ‘people-power’. People who can offer their view on almost anything. I guess this includes me with this bog – although I do hope to be fair to people!

I have always used Trip Advisor to check on places – but to be honest I take some of the comments with a pinch of salt. Some of the hotels I have stayed in bear little resemblance to the so-called reviews given. Of course the problem is that it is widely known that some competitor hotels get staff to post good and bad reviews where it suits. Hardly cricket!

Then we have Patient Opinion – a web site about good and bad experience in HNS hospitals. You can read one for the reviews about Nottingham’s QMC here of you can be bothered. It is all a bit pointless? And not a place I shall have on my favourites list.

Then last week I read about “Solicitors From Hell” – a website that may not be around for much longer. The Law Society are trying to get it shut down – so you had better be quick if you want to check out the moaning about lawyers. I did have a look to see if there was anyone I recognised… but there wasn’t. Honestly! In fact I think this web-site is dangerous as it doesn’t appear to be a place where those wronged can do anything about the allegations made.

When I fist started blogging, my good mate John Lyle and I had a discussion about ‘comments’ made on your blog. The question was whether you should edit the comments made. And the answer is “no”. Categorically. If you want to have any credibility then people need to be able to challenge and question your views.

House prices fall?

For the second time in a  week housing occupies column inches on my blog. I was reflecting on a couple of days in Guernesey where house prices are on the up. You can read that blog here.

Hot on the heels of this analysis came news from Rightmove that house prices in East Midlands fell by more than 2 per cent in August.

According to their House Price Index, the average asking price fell 2.1 per cent to £231,543 in August, following a 1.6 per cent reduction in July. In the East Midlands, the average house price fell 1.9 per cent from £163,133 in July to £160,114 this month.

In the press release Miles Shipside, a Rightmove director, likened the current state of the market to “limbo land”, suggesting that much of the current activity is limited to “sellers who are willing to price aggressively below the competition and who can afford to do deals”.

We shouldn’t really be surprised by this story? There is much uncertainty out in the market place. People are still concerned about job cuts – especially in the public sector. This leads to a nervousness in buyer sentiment. In addition we have people who bought at the the height of the market who just can’t afford to feel (we probably have some negative equity around). Then there is the lending market – which is as strict as it have ever been – deposits are required and offers seem to be limited to ‘new borrowers’.

On top of all of this was the ‘Summer’. I think the Summer this year started and finished in April. We are now seeing the shorter nights – Autumn is around the corner – with another excuse to ‘do nothing’.

It doesn’t bode well?