The Apple Poem

Iam reading Steve Jobs mammoth biography at the moment. It’s really interesting. I came across this poem in the book and liked it so much, I thought it should feature on my blog. I’m not sure if it’s entirely good to see so much of yourself in it, but hey ho!

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine.
They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

There endeth the lesson.

The National Planning Policy Framework – debated

As I had intimated in an earlier blog post I was in London on Wednesday night for my first meeting at the Academy of Urbanism. It was a debate on the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) which had itself been dragged kicking and screaming onto the Statute Books earlier this week.

Three speakers gave an ‘honest view’ of the Legislation – two were quite critical, Charmaine Young CBE was less so, imploring that we ‘give it a chance’.

But David Lock CBE was a good speaker. He had an interesting take on this new piece of Law. He ran through what it did – i.e. simplified the overly complex Planning process – reducing the 1,337 pages of Policy to just 50. The fuss previously had been that there was a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ which the press had seized upon as meaning lots of green bling buildings on the green belt. This has now been tightened – both in terms of the an adoption of the standard deficit ion of ‘sustainable’ but there is also some watering down of the ‘presumption in favour’.

But David also had a view that there were some amazing last minute additions – including the concept of a ‘garden city’. Hardly new, but a Grant Shapps idea (he lives in Welwyn Gardien City apparently). Also Councils have a Duty to Co-operate with their neighbours and if they can’t agree they have todo a memorandum of disagreement? David also suggested that Local Government is not equipped to handle the responsibility…

The final speaker was Paul Murrain who was equally vexed by the NPPF. He suggested that our boot environment was there for much longer than the short-termist politics at play here – and I agree. His favourite part was that we should replace poor design with better design…

The NPPF has raised a lot of debate; but it is now here and we have to work with it. However, I suspect as did most people in the room, there will be plenty of work around in trying to test and push the boundaries of the new rules. Only time will tell, but if it doesn’t work we shall see a real mess in our places…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Academy of Urbanism, Charmaigne Young, David Lock, Grant Shapps, National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF, Paul murrain

Building in factories

Last week I saw a new type off student accommodation at Eco Build. It was being launched by Terrapin and had been designed by my good friends at Church Lukas Architects. Andy Roberts, Partner, explained to me that he had been working on a collaborative system of some time. The showcase room was built in 5 days and was intended to be able to demonstrate the end product to clients. It certainly beat a CAD plan or even a 3d drawing!

This is a really interesting concept for this type of space. Student accommodation, by its nature is pretty much standard – lots of rooms piled on top of each other (just like the students will be?) and of a fairly similar design internally. I have seen ‘bathroom pods’ before – where the bathrooms are simply dropped in having been constructed in a factory.

But this new concept is different – it is the whole room. It felt like good space inside. The quality is great and I would happily stay in one of these rooms.

Of course there are some benefits – being built in a factory takes out much of the British weather risk. There is a repetition of design and construction so the quality tends to increase as familiarity increases. Once complete the whole unit is taken to site and ‘dropped’ in to a frame. The services are then simply hooked up and the place is opened. It is a simplified process where much of the risk is managed off-site.

This is a great way of building – for this type of build. It’s not for everyone, but where there is a repetitive requirement (hotels, prisons, student accommodation et al) this is pretty good. There is no massive cost saving – as you still need labour and a factory, but the benefits outweigh the downside.

I was suitably impressed. And wondered if this was far too good for the ‘great unwashed’!!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff, Nottingham Tagged Andy Roberts, Church, factory buit, modern methods, Student accomodation, system build, Terrapin

Nottingham misses out…

I heard last week that Nottingham’s bid to win one of the “Ten Super-Connected Cities” has been met with opposition in Whitehall – or rather we have been over-looked. I blogged about the need for Nottingham to get this super-fast broadband connection. As a Core City – this was going to be a key component in our future offer.

But it was not to be, which is a great pity. In my business we use internet connectivity more and more; file sharing and collaborative working are becoming the norm. Even video-conferencing has become less Star Trek and more the norm.

You can read the dismal story here. We were beaten by Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff and other places around the UK. George Osborne in his Budget speech said, ““These bids have the potential to create in the UK ten of the best cities in the world for broadband connectivity.”

I do know some of the businesses involved in the bid and I also know that the proposal made was excellent. So why didn’t we win some cash?

One of my London connections has suggested that there may be some mileage in the fact that Nottingham City Council may have stuck two fingers up at the Government once too often . The Freedom of Information story still rankles apparently. Eric Pickles famously called the Deputy Leader a “very silly boy”.

I would like to think that this has no bearing on a decision to award the first of these contracts, but is there some ‘human nature’ at play here? I guess we’ll never know, but I would hazard a guess.

It is time we realised that local Politics can have an influence as to how Nottingham is perceived on the bigger stage.

The Estates Gazette Awards 2012

My firm like winning awards – it’s a great accolade. So, it’s that time of year again when I would love you to vote for us. We have been nominated as Estates Gazette East Midlands Property Adviser of the Year again. But some of our pesky competitors have too.

It even makes the MD smile!

So this is a shameless plug for us. Apologies up front!

It’s really easy to vote – all you have to do is click here. Then scroll down to the ‘East Midlands’ and select ‘Innes England’ under the ‘Property adviser’ tab. Voting ends on 5 April.

Thanks if you do vote – it really is appreciated. This is the most important award of the year; it’s voted for by our clients and contacts. We can’t vote for ourselves (if we could obviously we would!).

The Quarter Day blues

It was Quarter Day yesterday – our quaint world of property management means we have to learn 4 ‘odd’ dates in the Calendar, they date back to the middle ages and are roughly based around the two solstices and two equinoxes. They are:

Lady Day (25 March)
Midsummer Day (24 June)
Michaelmas (29 September)
Christmas (25 December)

In recent years these have been the focus of the market – a lot of rent is due ‘quarterly in advice on the usual quarter days‘. This means big lumpy payments for some of the retailers who are struggling. As we wake up this morning it is likely that Game will have slipped into Administration as it faces a massive rent bill. Shares were suspended last week – there is no equity in the group. They have 1,300 shops and the probability is that they’ll reduce to around 300. It is reckoned they owe the banks in excess of £100m.

It seems that each quarter day we see a round of these sort of announcements. I am aware of a major hotel group also likely to struggle to find the rent.

So what can be done? We have seen a move away from the traditional quarter day payments – a lot of landlords are accepting monthly payments. But they are not always able to – especially if they have finance arrangements. Further, the management costs increase if you have to collect three payments instead of one. Landlords also have to be much more in touch with what’s happening as the frequency of rent payments – and the possibility of late payment increases.

As has been said before, the market is changing. Our High Streets are changing (we are shopping in different ways – on-line and supermarkets dominate). The way in which we lease property is also changing, perhaps we will stop seeing the ‘quarter day’ horror stories and they’ll just become ‘monthly’ horror stories?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Nottingham Tagged 25 March, Administration, Game, Lady Day, Portas, quarter days, rent,

Customer Service and some dead easy rules

Sometimes I wonder why people don’t get this customer service thing? It’s not rocket science – or is it?

In the last week, I have witnessed some quite astonishing complacency. I was always told that it was 7 times harder to win a new client than keep an existing one. I think the statistic is made up, but the sentiment is surely right? All too often I see people chasing new clients at the expense of the exiting client. It’s silly.

I went to a meeting where I raised a number of issues – I am a client in this case, but I shall spare the organisation their blushes. As I reeled off a number of examples explaining why they were losing existing clients I was repeatedly told ‘that shouldn’t happen’. But the point is that it does. The point is that most of the instances were ones where the existing customer base is being put second to trying to win new customers.

It reminded me of that famous Charles Handy quote -”if you put a frog in a jug of boiling water it will jump out. If, however, you put the same frog in a jug of cold water and slowly bring it to the boil it will sit there and eventually die from the boiling.” Sometimes organisations sit their in warm water, which gets hotter – and before they realise – it’s too late to jump out.

All too often we can be focused on winning new business – the real trick is to not lose sight of your existing clients.

The upshot of my experience is that I have started to contemplate taking my business elsewhere. People have choices – and I want to know that the people I give money to actually care about me.

The Mayor of Nottingham referendum question…

Nottingham City Council have published the question that will be asked of the 207,339 Citizens of Nottingham on May 3rd 2012.The simple question will be:

How would you like Nottingham City Council to be run?

By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.


By a mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from how the council is run now.

Clearly the change in the system would be fundamentally different to the current situation. It will require a leap of faith for the electorate. The present elected members number 55 – of that number 50 are Labour and 5 are Tory. There are no LibDems or any Independents.

By any measure such a bias cannot be healthy?

The Mayor may just redress the balance… But will the electorate think so. It’s estimated that the turnout could be somewhere between 10 and 30% Which is a great pity – as this is a chance to change this place for a generation.

I suggest that it is time for change and time we were able to elect someone who the people of Nottingham choose to run this City. I will certainly be voting ‘yes’ for an elected Mayor.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Election, Mayor, Mayor of Nottingham, MayorOfNottm, , referendum

The Academy of Urbanism

I am an “Academician” – which is a first for me. If I am really honest I hadn’t even heard of the word (my secondary school education shining through!). But I have been invited to join the Academy of Urbanism, which is an honour and membership is by election (i.e you can’t apply!).

I go to my first event next week in London – so I expect to blog about it afterwards, but for now I have been doing my background work on the organisation. In essence it is about getting together professionals across a diverse range of backgrounds with a stated of aim of learning from place. It’s about learning from the collective understanding of place making and sharing best practice.

I am really interested in this. The concept of creating places rather than collections of buildings must allow us to crate better communities and places where people want to live and work. It might all sound a bit ‘fluffy’ sometimes, but places are complex. You can’t manufacture a community – it doesn’t work like that. But when communities grow and flourish they take on a whole new dimension.

But part of this is all about learning. We do need to share ideas and collaborate. We need to think through what works and what doesn’t. We have to test things and try different things. Only then can we hope to put together that magic formula.

Places generally have to have a story – to make them unique. They have to be cohesive and the message needs to be clear.As is obvious this is not always easy.

Next weeks debate is about the new National Planning Policy Framework – a simplified rule-book about the Planning system. It is much misunderstood and have had mixed press. The presumption is in favour of sustainable development – which has been jumped on as meaning you can build and eco-bling house in the green belt. It’s not quite as simple as that!

I’ll do a blog after the event next week….


For the third time in as many weeks I found myself trailing around and exhibition – this time Eco-Build in London. I say London loosely as it was held at ExCel – which is closer to Southend-on-Sea than London I think!

This was a slightly different exhibition from the Building Exhibitions I used to go to at the NEC in Birmingham, the focus not surprisingly was on sustainable design and products. I have to say that some of the products just look as though they have been badged ‘green’ to get their place at the show. It was a massive undertaking – it would take you more than a day to get around the place!

I went to meet a few people, but also to see my friends from Nottingham University – some 2nd year students were exhibiting a pallet shelter which was great fun -although a bit thin on practicality! But there was also a Passive Haus competition run in conjunction with Isover – where Nottingham University had five entrants in the 8 shortlisted schemes. These were all designs centred around Trent Basin Nottingham. there were some really good ideas. The winners were Dan Shanahan and Emmett McNamamra from Edinburgh University. Nottingham students took second and third prizes.

I had a fascinating chat with Prof. Wolfgang Feist – the man who ‘invested’ the Passiv Haus concept. He was a really interesting character and was evangelising the system – explaining that it is not complex. It is about keeping the design simple. And very airtight!

I also saw a containerised student village offering which had been built by Terrapin and designed by Church Lukas Architects in Nottingham. It was really good and a very clever use of the technology of building in factories and then constructing on-site afterwards. The Formula 1 Hotel concept was similar to the Japanese Hotel – it was ‘cosy’ to say the least!

Putting to one side the big glossy stands, I was, once again, impressed by the work produced by the students at the Universities.