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…

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!

Handy Commuting skills…

I have been to the office on my bike a few times. And at the moment avoiding all of the building work would take some serious cycling skills. In fact my colleague and fellow Director, Matt Hannah, managed to fall out with a tram track two weeks ago. His bike is broken – his knee worse.

This film is dedicated to him – and others who are trying to be green in Nottingham at the moment.

It’s a film featuring Danny MacAskill who is exploring the forgotten town of Epecuén in Argentina, a location that has been submerged for the majority of the past 25 years…

And I thought doing a wheelie was hard! This is amazing…

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 house price conundrum

I blogged earlier this week about the problems of the house market in London. I was interested to see some of the facts issued this week about how our house prices have changed in the last year.


The headlines from the Office for National statistics:

* UK house prices rose by 8% in the year to the end of March (the newspaper headline)
* The annual property price increase in London stood at 17%
* Excluding London and the South East of England, prices were up by 4.7%
* Prices in Northern Ireland increased by 0.3%, and by 0.8% in Scotland
* The average home is now worth £252,000

So, as always the statistical headline is a nonsense. An average of 8% doesn’t really apply – London is skewing the figures. The regions are rising – but at nowhere near the rate of the Capital and South-East. Northern Ireland was hit hard in the recession and hasn’t recovered.

One of the ‘big ideas’ to lam this all down is to increase the base rate. There is a rise on the horizon – but it is a relatively crude tool. In London it has potentially less effect as it is reckoned that 40% of purchases are in cash!

I don’t know what the answer is. I listened to a debate on Radio 4 where it was clear that the new tightened Mortgage lending rules are causing some issues. There are some anomalies when ‘computer says no’ to a number of people who clearly, on a common sense basis, should be suitable security for lending.

We have, of course, had an issue with building houses (the supply side). There were 112,630 houses completed in England in the last year, a rise of just 4% on the previous year. We are told that we need to build 250,000 homes a year to meet demand. More supply should, in theory, assist.

There is no simple and easy answer but there are different problems in the regions to those south of Watford! One size does not fit all…

Nottingham – The worst place to live?

I can’t pass on a ‘story’ doing the rounds that I live in the eight worst place to live in the UK.


You can read this fully researched and statically accurate data here. The people have spoken apparently (or strung a few words together?)

Except that they don’t quite have that luxury – by their own admission, “This list is not based on any hard statistical evidence, but the volume of comments on Chavtowns. We have applied for access for the API, so next years figures should take the volume of anti-social of behaviour in the area as well!”

Oh, thats ok then.

At least they have found some intellectual, I presume from one of our world class Universities to help. Going by the slightly unusual birth name of “Jaded Agoraphobic”, he or she suggests:

“I’ve lived there all my life and I don’t think I’ve ever been into town, day or night, without seeing someone being attacked or harassed, or some dregs of society having it out in the street”

The good news is that we can all partake in this crowd-sourced research. It will be peer reviewed. As they say, “So you want to add your town to Chavtowns? Well we just don’t add any old rubbish to the site. You need to write a minimum of two paragraphs for your article to be considered. Just putting “my town is crap, don’t come here” is not going to cut it. We like articles that are darkly comic and cynical.“.

I think we can treat this piece of critical analysis with the attention it deserves. Ignore it. Even if it is darkly comic and cynical.

The habit has been broken…

Last year as we wandered towards summer I was looking forward the my 10th Isle of Wight Festival. The Boomtown Rats were a highlight as you probably know if you hang out here. They were brilliant.


But this year my annual trip to the Island won’t be happening.

It’s all about the music. The line up is I think as weak as I’ve seen. This is a festival at which I’ve seen Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Killers, The Police, The WHO, R.E.M, Paul McArtney, Neil Young (who was crap), Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Quality acts.

But this year – Biffy Clyro, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Kings Of Leon are headline acts. I’ve seen them all. And whilst they are ‘ok’ I can’t say I would rush to see any of them.

The only band worth seeing are The Specials and The Selector (who are relegated to graveyard spot). I last saw both of them in 1979 at The Kimberley Leisure Centre as part of a bill with another small band from the time – Madness…

I’m going to miss the tent and the whole ‘not washing’ experience. But my back to nature expedition is on hold this year. I’m going to have to settle for Splendour at Wollaton Park. Good reasons for this – it’s a mile from home so the tent stays firmly down. Oh – and Geldof and the Boomtown Rats are coming. Result. Who needs the Isle of Wight?

Get out of ‘jail’ card

In the Nottingham Post on Saturday was a story which I couldn’t pass on. It is the story of an everyday Police Officer (well a PCSO) who parked their van to respond to an ‘enquiry’ but then went shopping.


This was all fine except that the Police van was left on double yellow lines…

I quote the Police’s response from the Post,

“A police vehicle, being used by the local Safer Neighbourhood Team, was legitimately parked on double yellow lines while two Police Community Support Officers made inquiries in relation to a missing person. The vehicle was not causing any obstruction, however, after completing their inquiries the officers briefly attended a nearby shop to purchase some items before returning to the van. This was a momentary lapse of judgement for which the officers have received advice.”

It seems to me that there are two alternatives here.

Firstly the Officers are fined just like you and I would be. Its £70 – reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days.

Alternatively, we are all permitted a little indiscretion from time to time – making sure we don’t cause an obstruction, having a momentary lapse of judgement (something I am sure won’t be lost on our traffic wardens) and then we accept ‘advice’ (like a slap on the legs).

I favour the first option as I think the probability of us getting away with the second one are slim…

Rebalancing Act

I had dinner last night at The Hilton Hotel – cooked rather well by students from NCN. Amongst those on the table were Councillor Nick McDonald from Nottingham City Council and Graham Allen MP for Nottingham North.


The topic of conversation was the imbalance in Nottingham between the (relative) well-off South and the poor North. This may be too simplistic a headline – but the geography tells different stories.

Graham’s constituency is seemingly in the lowest 10 in the UK – in terms of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and social deprivation. Some of the constituents are third generation “out of work”.

It is easy to forget that across a large City like Nottingham that there is a wide variance in fortunes. We do tend to forget this when we see the good things (many of which I have blogged about here). There are some areas of desperation.

Graham and Nick are championing how we rebalance the local economy. It is no easy task – the loss of some of the major manufacturing and employers (coal, Raleigh, Imperial Tobacco and others) is still being felt 30 years after some of these changes occurred.

I am not sure that we have easy answers. It is going to take a long time – but ‘education’ was clearly one area where we all felt some change could be made. Getting kids to school and then to College is part of that process. But is also important that we train kids with skills they can use. We need to stop teaching them all ‘Geography’! (Sorry Geography teachers everywhere – you know I don’t mean that literally!). They need Maths and English. And life-skills.

I was blind to the suggestion that some of this generation of kids in some of these communities are not even contemplating ‘work’. That we have to fix.