Cycling – losing it’s appeal in the East Midlands

I was surprised to read at the weekend that the East Midlands cyclist is in decline. It seems that white van man is pushing the mamil’s* off the road.


London is seeing an increase (77,000 to 160,000 per day in ten years), but for some reason we are not. Of course London has a congestion charge – which has probably accounted for some of the increase. I’m not suggesting a congestion charge – we already have enough taxes here!

Across the UK around 3bn miles are cycled each year (in 1950 it was over 12bn!) – but this only amounts to 1% of all journeys.

I have been wondering why. Of course this is an average survey which may not tell the whole story. But cycling around Nottingham, in particular, is not easy. The pace is busy. I have been out with my son when we have been verbally abused (that might have been the lycra in fairness) by motorists. I have been cut up on more than one occasion.

We do need to improve the way in which can cycle around our cities. The cycle routes need continual improvement. Bristol has seen an increase in cycling – partly due to them spending £20m on improvements to the cycling network.

But fundamentally we also need to educate white van man and his car driving counterparts that there is a place for cyclists on the road?

* middle aged me in lycra

The East Midlands – land of opportunity

At our Market Insite event last week one of the speakers put up a slide with an interesting quote:


“The East Midlands is a region of opportunity. Confidence in its future is founded on its generally diversified economic activity… its past and present level of employment, and the relative absence of the disadvantages associated with massive and congested conurbation’s.”

We take out roadshow to Nottingham, Derby and Leicester over three consecutive days. We are all about the East Midlands in terms of our market knowledge. We do work further afield in certain sectors, but here is home.

What I didn’t tell you was that the quote was from 1969 – 44 years ago! It was part of a report by the then East Midlands Economic Planning Council. They sound like a laugh-a-minute types?

I thought the quote was telling. There are still opportunities here. We do have a diversification of activities and we are well connected. Getting around (well not this week to Derby – where it took me 2 hours to travel 14 miles!) is generally fairly painless. We are in the centre of the Country – London is within 100 minutes at the moment. Leeds is just over an hour by road.

We are not pinned in – and have plenty of room to grow. Housing is cheap and we have a skilled workforce.

There are great reasons come here – and we need to shout about them.

One of the other comments I heard last week was following our impatience to keep pressing forward. I think some of us a restless souls who want to keep pushing the case and making the place better. But someone said, tellingly, “you’re not doing too badly at all”…

I think we do beat ourselves up sometimes – and perhaps we are in a better place than we think. I still want it to be better though!!

Some pretty cool buildings

As I blogged about last Friday I was at the RICS East Midlands Awards evening last week; they double up as the venue for the Estates Gazette to announce the Agent of the Year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an amazing selection of projects – some of which I knew. Surprised because we are supposed to be in austere times. There were a record number of entries – 36. The quality of the submissions was very high and I didn’t envy the judges.

Having judged for the last few years for the Civic Trust Awards, I was delighted to see one of the buildings I looked at get a commendation. The Westfield Folkhouse Project in Mansfield designed by Lewis & Hickey (read Nick Riley’s blog here) is a great project and wins another accolade. I was also pleased to see Raynsway’s Passivhaus Office in Leicester be rewarded too. This is a very green building!

Maggies in Nottingham received a commendation too and the collection at the dinner (£1,250) was given to the centre. I love the architecture of the building.

But the evening was about four winners:

Althrop House in Northamptonshire for the Building Conservation Award
The Clay Cross Regeneration Scheme for Regeneration
The Repton School Theatre for Design & Innovation
The Hartsholme Academy in Lincoln for the Community Benefit

These projects were all really good, but one gets the honour of going forward to the National awards in November – and it was little surprise that Althrop won. It was a delicate project to re-dress damaged limestone, replacing stainless steel pins holding the facade tiling and replacing lead roofs. By all accounts this was a major undertaking – taking 20 months. The finished photographs look stunning.

It was good to see that we can still produce good new buildings and refurbish old ones to such a high standard.

Estates Gazette – Agent of the Year 2012

I blogged about my firm being nominated for the East Midlands Agent of the Year 2012 here. We were up against some pretty stiff competition – two national agents and one local one.

We won! And we’re over the moon. The award is the latest in a series of awards for us in the last 6 months – we won the East Midlands Property Dinner Agent of the Year 2011 last September and more recently the Most Active Agent Award – also from the Estates Gazette. Our awards cabinet will need extending soon!

It’s a great accolade for the Directors and staff to get this sort of external recognition. The Estates Gazette is the national property magazine – and is hugely respected. It’s the prize to win – this is our fourth time in eight years! If you voted for us – thanks – it was much appreciated! We couldn’t have done it without your vote.

Last night we collected the award from Lisa Pilkington at the packed RICS / EG Dinner in Nottingham. We had a great night – as you might expect. However, I was on the lemonade, as this morning I am sitting as a final APC assessor for the RICS in Coventry. I need to be wide awake for the next cohort of candidates…

But I’ll be assessing with a smile on my face (as if I would ever do anything else)!

Next week, I’ll blog about some of the buildings that won RICS awards. Some i know and have been to. It was an impressive array!

(Talented) Women in Property

Last Friday I acted as a judge for the East Midlands Women in Property awards. There were five entrants who were drawn from the best of the best at the regions Universities – all studying in the Built Environment.

The bar for eligibility is a high academic achievement – so this was a given. The judging criteria was about the person.

Each candidate gave a presentation for 10 minutes and then faced five judges questions. The questions wer pre-set by our facilitator for the day; even I didn’t know the questions beforehand. Apparently this is so that no one gets a head start. In previous years there have been suggestions that the questions have found their way onto twitter immediately after the interviews. Cheating or girls sticking together?

We were allowed to tailor the questions!

Bearing in mind that the majority of the candidates were young (I mean younger than me!) I was very impressed. The day was inspiring. Presentations were of a high standard (some of Steve Jobs standard!). Like all interview situations there were nerves, but once these were overcome, it became apparent that the industry has better watch out!

Turning the tables on the judges at the end was an interesting experience – getting grilled was an experience!

These are bright cookies. The decision to pick a regional winner was not easy. But we had to… and did. I can’t say who won, obviously. Our winner gets a crack at the national title in November in London. I have feeling that she will do well!

The runners up did themselves proud and I think all of the candidates will go on to great things. In a couple of candidates I could see future high-flyers.

Fortunately none of the candidates were Chartered Surveyors in waiting – so I’m safe for the moment! But all were very employable in the property industry.

Miles and hours

I thought I would monitor my cars performance during October and have observed the following:

1. I worked 21 full days (some of them longer than others) and then some Saturdays.
2. I drove 1,767 miles
3. My car says I spend 61 hours and 45 minutes attached to it – thats just over 8 days in English money!
4. It also says I averaged 29mph – not exactly fast! But quicker than a chicken.
5. I spent £335 on diesel – ouch.
6. We managed an average mpg of 33.8mpg – much better than my RS4.
7. I went to Guildford, Wakefield, The Isle of Wight, Manchester as well as lots of places around Nottingham and the East Midlands. I can’t recall them all as I lost my diary when I upgraded to the Cloud… thanks Apple.
8. I drank more Costa Coffee than can really be considered healthy, and managed only one Starbucks - which is a volte face.

I need to spend less time attached to the car I think?

East Midlands is missing – reward for return

I can’t believe it is nearly a year since I blogged about where the East Midlands is – you can read it here. I wonder if government has also lost sight of the bit of the UK that holds together the posh south with the rough north?

If the announcement about Regional Growth Fund (“RGF”) money is anything to go by – my suspicions may be more than a hunch…

Firstly we have a new neighbour – the South East Midlands? Do they mean Leicester then? Wherever, they are part of us now.

Then we seem to have someone from Disley in our region. Last time I looked Disley was in Stockport – Manchester? Or is there another one I have missed. Disley Tissue |Ltd only seem to have one office – and it’s not near me! I wonder if BIS have a different map?

They certainly have missed us when they were scattering the money. We got a measly £67m according to Business Insider (putting to one side the Disley-Gate issue). This is reckoned to create 1,400 direct jobs – with 7,800 indirect jobs. I was glad to see that Derby bagged £40m – they need it with the demise of Bombardier and Egg.

We won 7 bids (including Disley). The North East was awarded 49 bids, The North West got 34. Even the Brummies scraped 19.

So what happened? Why has the East Midlands missed out again. I understand that Boots had a bid for the preparation works for the Enterprise Zone – but this was discounted. I’m not sure why we create an EZ one moment and then don’t fund the essential works to make it happen. Or maybe I do. Maybe this is all about headlines and little to do with common sense?

£950 million on offer and we get just 7% of it.

Against this backdrop Nottingham has the worst unemployment rates across the UK. In August it was reported that 14.8% of the population are out of work – compared to the National Rate of 7.8%

BIS needs put some cash in an area that desperately needs it?

My next ‘little’ project – can you help?

On 11th March 2011 an earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a huge tsunami to rise and flood the north eastern coast of Japan.

Thousands of lives were lost, homes, businesses, schools, roadways, in fact the complete infrastructure people rely on from day-to-day was wiped out. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless as entire towns and villages were flattened and washed out to sea.

The world watched in horror and then quickly turned to supporting the Japanese people as they started the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding and, in many cases, having to completely start again from scratch.

ONE YEAR ON: It is the nature of such disasters that, after time, the world’s media moves on and the fundraising and support starts to diminish. It is still needed but the world has turned its attention to other causes, other problems.

On 11th March 2012 the East Midlands will mark the first anniversary of the Tsunami by holding a five-minute torch lit vigil in remembrance of those lost and in support of those still rebuilding their homes, their businesses, their lives.

At 9.00pm on the 11th March, the city centres of Derby, Leicester, Northampton and Nottingham will fill with people marking the anniversary and a poignant five-minute silence will be observed as the people of the region hold a Torch for Japan and raise still much-needed funds for their fellow human beings in the land of the rising sun.

Fundraising will be via a number of routes including sales of Torch for Japan ‘apps’, online donations, corporate sponsorship, Torch for Japan merchandise and more.

A date for your diary…

11th MARCH 2012 at 9.00pm

I will post updates here in done course! And let me know if you can help (with anything!)


UPDATE… Lincoln are now included in our list of Participating Cities.

Innes England – win win win!

Last night we were at the Insider East Midlands Property Dinner at Nottingham University. This has become the event in the property world annual calendar. With over 400 people from the East Midlands present it is an opportunity to meet lots of people – and celebrate the good things about our region.

the winning team (obviously not at sailing!)

We were also celebrating as we were announced as “Agent of the Year”. As you might expect we were just a little bit chuffed to have pipped FHP and JLL to the post…

And then earlier in the week I picked up my Estates Gazette. At this time of the year they publish their annual results survey – which used to be the Top 100 surveying firms. But, times have changed and it is now the Top 60. This is probably because lots of smaller firms have been swallowed up!

I was delighted to see my firm, Innes England, were at No.44. In a National League – we are pleased to be there.

But our real coup is that we got to the dizzy height of No.29 when we are judged on turnover per fee earner. This shows either that we all work really hard, or that we employ talented people – or both! Most firms have found in the last 12 months that they have had to earn more with less people…

The EG awards are Industry recognised and are important in our marketing strategy. That we beat our local rivals and competitor firms on both counts is great news. It is interesting though that firms are judged on turnover – and I always wonder if this is right. As I have said here before turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is king…

In the meantime we’ll settle for our new title of “Agent of the Year” and EG league table finish.

Onwards and upwards!!

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?