Notingham – the business plan – SWOT analysis – part four – “T”

The final part of the SWOT analysis – what are the threats to us?


This is a tough one – especially if we are to be honest.

In some ways we are our own biggest threat. I think we sometimes beat ourselves up when we don’t need to. I guess that is sometimes because we see better things on the other patch of green grass. And there is no harm in that. We should aspire to better. In fact the City are pushing a message of ‘good’ to ‘great’.

Politically the strength of the Labour movement locally can be perceived as a bad thing. Not because there are bad politicians but rather that opposition is ineffective. I’m not sure this is healthy – but I can’t seeing it change any time soon. I think this remains a threat to the City.

We also have two Cities close by who are snapping at our heels. We have Leicester with a bigger and more culturally diverse population and we have Derby who have a very clear marketing message and position – they punch above their weight. We have to be careful not to be complacent; simply saying we are ‘better’ doesn’t quite was in these times. We have to prove we are better.

Something that will emerge over the next few years (months?) is technology – and this threat applies to all major Cities. We have to be ready for the massive change in technology – particularly with the necessity to be connected. If we don’t get connected then we will suffer long term consequences. Fast internet connections, wifi, augmented reality applications and connections are going to play an increasingly important part of our lives.

Like all of the parts of this ‘business plan’ these things are all connected. Have I missed anything obvious?

My brief podcast…

I did an interview with Lisa Plkington from the Estates Gazette on all things East Midlands property market – and MIPIM 2014!

You can listen to is here.

A Market Insite… for the East Midlands

Next week sees the launch of my firms annual research into the stare of the East Midlands property market. We hold three breakfast events – starting on Wednesday in Nottingham.


The document sets out the position for the year ending 31 December 2013 – and compares it to the last 5 years. Although it is at the printers at the moment and I’m sworn to secrecy there are some interesting facts emerging. Some of my colleagues re clearly feeling a little bullish too.

This from Robert Hartley, Managing Director’ “While there may be some headwinds to come, the improvement in the economy does seem to have gained traction and we can look forward to 2014 with some confidence.”

Whilst the picture was a little more considered by my agency colleagues in Nottingham,

“The Greater Nottingham industrial market held steady in 2013. Although activity dipped 15% on the previous year, takeup maintained the ten-year average There were mixed fortunes for the office market, with the city centre market putting in one of its weakest performances on record, while the out of town market fared much better. Although the number of deals in the city centre remained constant year on year, with one notable exception, the lack of larger deals above the 5,000 sq ft bracket contributed to a reduction in the 12-month takeup figures when compared to the previous year. In contrast, the out of town market achieved a near doubling in the number of deals, resulting in a 70% upsurge in activity. The stellar performance by the out of town market wasn’t quite enough to make up for the shortfall experienced in the city, with overall take-up figures down 8% to 402,300 sq ft by the year end.”

If you would like a copy of the report when it is published – get in touch! If you would like to come to the launch breakfast – likewise!

Retro – and very cool

If you are wondering what to get me for Christmas I have a plan.


Although I’m a ‘Canon Man’ I must say that the new Nikon camera launched this week looks rather cool. It is a back to basics camera – which nods back to a time when we all had film cameras. It looks like a film camera but boasts a full frame sensor- that means superb quality.

But the reason I thought this release was interesting was that Nikon have made a conscious decision to remove the ‘video camera’ element which has crept into most models now. In fact my own camera is used by the BBC to film on occasion – the quality of the video is so good.

It is interesting that in a crowded market place how you need to find a means by which you differentiate yourself. In this case Nikon have done exactly that. There are hundreds of camera models – low, medium and high range – but most cram features we’ll never use. They try to be all things to all men.

A marketeer will tell you just how important differentiation is. And it doesn’t apply to just products – it applies to Cities and places too. This week I saw that one of our neighbouring cities are heading off to MIPIM next year and on the front page of their brochure they have proudly announced that they are ‘open for business’.

Nottingham has so many great messages we have to be careful about being all things … I can only suggest that ‘open for business‘ message is the antithesis to differentiation. We mustn’t use it. Even when others do!

PS – you will need to raid the piggy bank of £2,750 for the camera!

Nottingham Tram – a slightly different take

You will know that I have a mixed view on the Tram – it’s like the Curates Egg – good in parts. But the mess at the moment and the Workplace Parking Tax (Levy) are not good things.


I was contacted last week by someone who does like trams – and is about to draw attention to the Nottingham Tram system.

In 2010 Adham Fisher visited every tram stop on the system – in a time of one hour 26 seconds! And he thinks he can beat that time.

Adham is an urban rail racer from Leicester.

He has attempted 14 times the Guinness World Record for visiting every station on the London Underground as quickly as possible. Having been to New York last year to attempt the corresponding record there, he has done the same in many other cities, drawing attention to public transport to the extent of being interviewed on breakfast TV in Toronto, presented with a personalised station sign by the Chicago Transit Authority president and played on stage in a theatre production about Chicago trains.

But this Friday and Saturday, Adham will tackle the Nottingham Tram for his very first urban rail race of 2013. However, he already has an eye on 2014.

“Lines 2 and 3, under construction now, will make the network much more challenging in this regard when they enter service next year,” he says. “Certainly, going to every stop will take much longer than an hour. Such new possibilities are intriguing and I look forward to returning again to ride the extensions.”

Adham also heads a music collective called 1000 Stations which writes songs exclusively about metro systems. Their first album, Metro EP, is out now.

I wish him well – the last time I went on a tram I saw Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze play a set…

UPDATE 17.2.13

Adham tells me that he did the ‘race’ in 55 minutes, 37 seconds with Highbury Vale counting as two stations. As one it’s 53 minutes, 50 seconds. I’m impressed!

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!!

Lumpy – like porridge

It’s that time of year again when my firm, Innes England, publishes a look back at the previous years trading in the East Midlands marketplace.


We hold three events – in each of the cities where we have offices. Leicester was Tuesday, Derby yesterday and this morning the final one was in Nottingham yesterday. We get around 600 people to come along.

This is our 7th year of publishing data about key deals and average rents / capital values in the three cities. The last 5 years have been difficult stories to tell. It’s not pretty as they say. Most people in the Industry realise that the market remains a challenge. Money remains tight. Deals are scarce and tenant is king – at the moment. I don’t need to bore you with this data – you already know.

There is an interesting take on all of this – perhaps we are in a depression. We have certainly been in the doldrums for a long period – and I can’t see what is changing at the moment. I can’t help but wonder if this place we are in is the new ‘norm’. We hark back to the boom times of 2007 – but no one I speak to thinks that this era is back anytime soon. The sentiment in the market is not an optimistic one. Subdued would be an understatement!

Even the Bank of England speaker, Alistair Cunningham, said we shouldn’t get too excited about 2013. Growth is likely to remain non-existent.

So we bobble along the bottom again. For the foreseeable future

Will Rossiter Nottingham Business School summed it up nicely at our event yesterday – ‘the market is like porridge – lumpy’!

If you would like a copy of our Market Insite and couldn’t make the presentations let me know through here and I will make sure we get you a copy!

The East Midlands Market 2007-2011

Although the Title looks like an obituary, it’s not! Today my firm launch our annual review of the property market across the East Midlands. Today we hit Nottingham, tomorrow is Derby’s turn then we turn our attention to Leicester. We expect to meet around 750 of the regions property folk over the next few days.

We are uniquely placed, having an office in each of the regions major Cities (are you still allowed to say ‘regions’ I wonder). We trade in and report on commercial property across the golden triangle that is centred on Nottingham, Derby & Leicester. It’s my day job.

For the 5 years we have been monitoring the markets – to see if we can spot trends…

Our general view was that 2011 started well but then slipped back during the summer months. It looked like the market was coming back, but the second half of the year was disappointing. We remain optimistic though for 2012 – interest rates are low and inflation looks like is it beginning to fall. We need confidence to come back. The Euro needs to stabilise.

The 2011 key messages from our three offices were…

Derby – a robust reaction to the Bombardier Thameslink fiasco was balanced by a successful £40m Regional Growth Fund bid. Office take up was at its lowest level for the last 5 years. Fortunately Hero TSC took 68,000 sq ft in the last few weeks of the year.

Leicester – keeps delivering positive take up figures across all sectors. The MIRA Technology Park being a notable addition. The Passiv Haus at Raynsway Properties Watermead development (I blogged about it here) was a high point. Office take up was at its highest for 5 years!In addition 2.2m sq ft of Industrial space was shifted – a 10 year high.

Nottingham – the office market take up was marginally ahead of the 10 year average for the third year running. It was down very slightly on last year, but 566,000 sq ft was let or sold. Industrial take up was slightly up on the 2010 figure – but lower than the 10 year average.

If you would like a copy of the report – let me know via the comments section – and leave me your email address, I’ll email you a copy in PDF format.

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.

A very very green building!

I had the pleasure this week of having a look around a passiv-haus development at Water Meadows Park, just north of Leicester.

And this is one of the most sustainable buildings I have ever been in. It has been built by and for Interserve. Designed by my friends at CPMG Architects in Nottingham it is at the edge of our current green technology. The developers are Raynsway Properties - they are the ones who took the leap of faith!

In essence this building is a super-insulated box. It has thick walls, small windows on the north elevation, huge windows on the south and lots of technologies to reduce the pull on our valuable resources. It takes cooled air from earth tubes and has very effective solar shading in the form of external venetian blinds. The real key is air-tightness – trying not to let the ambient air escape. Building regulations have been exceeded ten-fold in the air-tightness test! This is not the only impressive statistic – the space heating demand is one-fifth of a ‘normal’ building, energy demand is less than one-third!

All of this adds up to energy bills way below the current averages – it is estimated that it will cost less than £3,000 p.a. to run. On a like for like basis you might expect a 10 year old building of a similar size to cost around £9,500 p.a. to run.

Inside I quite liked the building – it is minimalistic – clean lines and high ceilings help. I am never sure about exposed mechanical venting systems – but like most buildings people stop looking above eye-level after the fist week! Interserve have only just moved in, so it is a little sterile at the moment. It needs to be lived in for a while to gain some personality.

But the real question, as you might expect from me, is about ‘value’. It was more expensive to build than the average. I know the rent agreed, but I figure that in the current market the figures don’t quite add up. But I admire the developers approach – this is for the long term. It won’t be long before occupiers start to look at occupancy costs – especially as fuel bills rise.

There has also been a learning curve on this building – which someone has to do!

Sometimes it is good that it is not all about the money?