Nottingham – hot property!

Last week saw Nottingham feature in an article in the Financial Times – with a headline “Nottingham drives revival in the east Midlands”.


RBS have done some research announcing that their growth tracker has shown the east Midlands as having grown by 1% in the first quarter – as against 0.8% in the UK as a whole. But more importantly they have also suggested that we are the only English region apart from London to have an economy bigger that that pre-recession. Manufacturing is a critical part of that growth.

But the article also focussed on ‘Science’ – which has a massive home here. Obviously we have Alliance Boots – but we also have Bio-City. There is a very significant scientific community. The MRI scanner was invented by Sir Peter Mansfield (he and I learned to fly at the same time!) and Ibuprofen was invented by Dr Stewart Adams at Boots. We are even making replacement blood – through Andaris at Ruddington.

The article harked back to a time when Nottingham was known for Raleigh Bikes and Players Cigarettes. By the end of next year the Imperial Tobacco factory will close…

Nottingham is capable of re-invensting itself. The Science is obvious, but I have touched before on the creative sectors. They too are growing and will allow us to differentiate ourselves.

We have a lot going for us – we just need to capture the talent, nurture it and retain it.

Treat all guests as Angels – you never know….

At the weekend I spent a bit of time with my youngest son – looking at potential cars. His current wheels are pretty good but he’s ready for a change.


It’s frustrating for him – especially in the main dealerships. So here’s a bit of a summary…

BMW Nottingham – he went in last December and they promised to call him. He complained a month ago and they promised to call him. They haven’t done so. He left another message. I don’t hold out much hope.

Audi Nottingham – were a bit short staffed but they did talk to us and were helpful – although couldn’t source a car for him (not their fault!)

Mercedes Nottingham main dealership – clearly did not consider him worthy of much time. The salesman could not have been more disinterested. Clearly didn’t think Jak could afford the car – explaining rather patronisingly how expensive it was. It seemed a lot of trouble to get some details of a second hand car…

It was all becoming a little depressing – until we got to Toyota Nottingham. Despite the fact that the dealership was about to close (in 15 minutes0 they offered us a drink and the salesman worked some figures out, showed us a range of cars and sorted out a test drive for this week. The difference in attitude was palpable.

I forgot to mention – the Toyota he is looking at is similarly priced to the BMW, Audi and Mercedes…

Of course Inchcape own both Mercedes and Toyota and Sytner controls BMW and Audi.

Some businesses really don’t deserve customers…

Hotels.Com – beware!

Last week I stayed in London. I had a long two days of meetings. It was a set of fairly late arrangements – I couldn’t book my usual hotel. I was also in the West End – away from the centre.


I searched via Google and found 196 Bishopsgate – ideally placed and reasonably (for London!) priced. The booking was done through I had a confirmation email – with a long number.

I turned up at the Hotel after a long day of meetings to be be met by the poker faced receptionist who say ‘non’. They didn’t have the booking. I showed him the reference but alas he was not on my side. Worse still they were fully booked with people who didn’t share my name.

It was Hotels.Com fault apparently. I called Hotels.Com from the reception – 14p per minute. Despite their best efforts it was all lost – there was no room at the Inn. In fairness I was tired and marginally irritable at this point. The girl offered to call me back to make alternative arrangements. After 49 minutes I gave up. I do realise in this interweb age that the call centre is unlikely to be near where I live – but the girl was struggling with the concept of where I was and where I wanted to sleep. Heathrow may have been her idea of where London is in the world – but it isn’t exactly convenient for the West End. I had no idea where West-meinster was – presumably close to large Benjamin?

It took me 4 minutes to book on my phone what it had taken Hotels.Com 49 minutes to fail to do. I had to pay though – the choice was limited!

You may be surprised to know that I have complained – that was a week ago. No reply just yet… I’m not holding my breath.

So beware – just because you have confirmed booking doesn’t mean you have a confirmed booking at Hotels.Com.

UPDATE.. No I haven’t yet had a reply, but they did invite me to rate their booking ystem, which I did (‘poor’ but nothing rude!). Then I got this email … It seems that they don’t like the truth.


North of Watford…

I was at the Derby Property Summit yesterday – an impressive showcase for Derby held at the home of (Championship) football – Pride Park. The great and the good were gathered and there was no mention of Bobby Zamora – or his being given freedom of the City (Nottingham). I digress.


We have heard the story before that the Soth-East is over-heating and the regions have it all to play for. I’m not convinced that it’s quite as simple as that; London and the South East have a different dynamic – associated with a Capital city sat firmly on the world stage. The market doesn’t operate in quite the same way as the regions – the inward foreign investment makes sure of that.

One of the questions addressed by the panel was whether the private rented sector was coming of age outside the M25. This translates into – “will the major Institutions invest in our regional cities?”. It’s a fair question. The answer is complex.

5 years ago there was little or no institutional investment in residential property to speak of – let alone that investment being outside the M25. But times have changed and there is Institutional investment now – the money chases money and return. Residential property has come of age and now can provide a reasonable return. It does need quantity to spread risk. It was suggested that you need 800-1200 units to spread risk and make the investment worthwhile.

But the really interesting comment was that the regional cities need to get visibility with the Institutions – they need to sell themselves. And herein lies the rub – this is not easy. It is quite difficult to get the men in suits out of their London offices. It was a bit harsh to suggest that the fund managers are lazy. They’re not – they’re busy and a trip up here takes a day…

It does show how important it is for our cities to go to London. Both Nottingham and Derby do this – and they need to keep on doing it!

The Muppet Show….

This is superb. WARNING – it contains adult language.

Having been the victim of the Tram works for the last 12 months at NG2 I can fully understand where they are coming from!

NTU – more talent on show

You may be having a sense of deja-vu if you drop by here often. I have blogged a couple of times lately when I have been at Nottingham Trent University.


Last night it was the Annual Friends of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment dinner in the amazing Newton Building. I am a friend of the University apparently. I’m certainly an Alumni – although that seems like a very long time ago!

The dinner was great fun – meeting lots of new people. There was even some ‘KT’ (knowledge transfer!) going on. One of the lecturers was really keen to understand how we are appraising properties in a rising market.

Part of the evening gives the guests a chance to look around the end of the year student shows. And this is where you get to admire the work done by final year students. It’s corny – but there are some very talented people. I love looking at the architectural drawings and designs – even if some are fanciful. Perhaps some of the ‘fashion’ is not really what I’d wear in the office (we have only just started to lose the ties!).

But the part I really enjoyed this year was the furniture design. There are some really beautiful pieces. In some cases it is art rather than furniture.

My favourite piece was done by Charlie Adams and is shown in the picture. It is a simple desk – the workmanship was ‘Audi’ standard and the lines and proportions just perfect. It was designed for the House range of John Lewis. I thought it was the star of the show!

The best phone for business?

Our mobile telephone contract at work is coming up for renewal later in the year. I know because I’m being offered all manner of enviable never to be seen again deals by countless companies. I know who they are when they call as the call always starts with ‘how is your day today’. As if they care really?


Since the initial iPhone was introduced that is what the business has had, across the board. We are on iphone5′s at the moment; rumours of an iPhone6 abound. The anticipated release date is September – so our contract timing might be good.

I like my iPhone as it is fairly bullet proof. It also syncs nicely with all of my mac gear. It is easy. But the battery life is nothing short of appalling – I think perhaps 6 or 7 hours at best.

And it has really lost its excitement factor. It is fairly boring.

At the weekend I had a look around the competition – and the Samsung Galaxy is clearly way out in the lead. Apple must be terrified of them. The screen is better, the camera so too. OK, it doesn’t run IOS but you are not tied to the Apple Store where Apple have a stranglehold on what you download and buy.

I have decided to try the Samsung as an experiment over the next few months. I’ll let you know how I get on…

The future Office?

Twice last week I was interviewed by ‘National’ journalist writing pieces for some of our trade press – and twice the subject was ‘regional offices’.


This is a tough call for Nottingham. We have some good offices here but we struggle against the likes of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester (we should just ignore London for the moment!)

Our market has been characterised in the last few years by one big deal a year. Eon, Specsavers, Speedo – they are all built and occupied. Last year we didn’t have a big deal. I’m not sure we will this year – although the announcement that the City Council were to take 25,000 sq ft in the Unity Square development near the Station will be music to many ears.

One of the questions posed to me was that if we have a lack of demand why would you build supply – and it is a fair point. Speculative office building is a high roller poker game.

This got me thinking a little – particularly about my own situation. I have an office – it is very nice – it is open-plan and there are no ‘little boxes’. I have my files there – and quite a few staff! But actually I spend most of my working life away from the office. I can work out of Costa Coffee, or on East Midlands Trains. My daughter tells me that it called “Agile Working” – not needing a physical space or a fixed timetable.

SO if this is the case it may well be that our idea of an office in the future is substantially flawed. My method of working has changed significantly in the last five years – so what is going to happen in the next five as technology improves exponentially?

Food for thought about the way in which we will organise ourselves?

The paperless office?

I might have touched on the desire of my office to try to be paperless. We have failed.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 21.32.28

We still have comfort blanket style files. They have plans and copy emails in (that used to read copy letters – but we don’t write many letters now!). In some cases we red files for maintaining our professional indemnity insurance. The phrase ‘contemporaneous notes’ rings in a young surveyors ears!

I have made a bit of a step though. I left my notebook and pen behind at Christmas. It was a big step as I still quite like a notebook (Leuchtturm if you must ask). I also like ink pens.

But they all went and I switched to my iPad. I principally use an App called Day One – not because it is clever but rather I can make entries on any of my devices and they sync to each other. I also use dropbox and Evernote pro. I think it works ok – I have to be a bit more organised than scribbling a note. But the notes are gone. If I need them on a file I print the Day One note!

But this new little toy came to my notice yesterday – Sony have seemingly managed to cross a notepad with a kindle and created the nattily titled DPTS1 – which stands for Digital Paper System (except it doesn’t). Even if there’s an extra “T” I still want one!

This looks to be a clever move forward…

Pricing is rumoured to be around $1,000.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff Tagged digital notepad, , Leuchttrum, notepad, paperless office, Sony

Nottingham – great stuff #9

I can’t quite believe that I have got to number 9 on my list without mentioning our two Universities. The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University are really key component parts of the City.


Nottingham University has it’s campus to the West of the City on land originally gifted by Jesse Boot. There are overseas campuses in Malaysia and Ningbo. I have been to Ningbo – you can read about it here. The University has 50 departments, institutes and research centres. There are around 34,000 students and 9,000 staff. Total income was £520 million in 2012/13, of which £100 million was from research grants and contracts. A 2014 survey suggested it is the most targeted university by the UK’s top employers – that story is here.

Nottingham Trent University was created when a number of Polytechnics were given ‘University’ stays in 1992. It has three campuses all in Nottingham. It is one of the largest universities in the UK with around 28,000 students. And the University has “one of the best employability records of any university in England and Wales”. It maintains close ties to over 6,000 businesses and 94% of students progress to full-time employment or further education within six months of graduating.

The two Institutions are of huge importance to the City across many areas. Apart from the obvious aspect of bringing young people to the City (with their money and parents!), it brings some of the brightest people around not our patch. But they also have, in recent years, been consistently building new facilities – you only need to look at Triumph Road or The Clifton Campus to see the massive investment that has taken place.

The two Universities continue to attract new talent to the City and if we can retain them then that can only bode well of the future?