It’s difficult to explain what has happened over the last few months in the local market. Most of the press have eyes on London and the South East. There is a boom there without doubt.


One of my housing developer clients told me they are seeing £350,000 for a 500 square foot studio apartment in Islington. That’s a space 20 ft wide by 30 ft long. In that you have to squeeze a bathroom, kitchen and living sleeping space. The plan picture is 500 sq ft. Imagine if there re two of you – cosy!

You might have spotted that my blog posts are a little sporadic of late. The reason is that my work-life has changed beyond recognition in the last six months. I have bids at pre-crash prices on land, I have offers out on buying land and buildings and we are working as long hours as I can remember. All great for profitability – hard on the sleep thing!

But i can’t help but wonder if this is all a bit flash in the pan. None of us hope that this is the case – it’s been a long depression! But we all know that any Government funded schemes have to be spade ready and ideally finished before next March. The interest rates may well increase – although I have a suspicion that June 2015 is more likely than next January!

All eyes are on the General Election. In reality no one knows what is going to happen – uncertainty never helps a fragile market.

I just hope that we don’t go bust – again.

The new way to watch TV

I don’t watch a great deal of TV. I occasionally get to see the C4 news when I get home. There’s not much else on TV?


But I do like ‘box sets’ – which tend to be American. Breaking Bad was addictive over Xmas (I watched all 5 series!).

I have just finished watching the first two series of House of Cards. It’s the story of power and corruption in The Whitehouse and stars Kevin Spacey. Again, it was fairly addictive – I was delighted to eland at the weekend that they are shortly to film the third series.

It is, of course based on a short UK series of the same name filmed in the 1990′s but there the similarity ends. That was 4 episodes, Spacey has filmed 26 – so far!

What makes this series stand out is that it was commissioned by the Internet streaming service Netflix. They paid for it and premiered it. They also apparently gave Spacey a series to go at – whereas most networks tend to operate on a piiot and then the possibility of further shows.

Perhaps this is the way forward – our traditional views and ideas about TV and film have been challenged by Netflix with great acclaim. And I can’t wait for the next series. I wonder if I need to pay the TV Licence any more – a bit like Noel Edmonds?

An unlikely union?

I have very little time for Russell Brand – I think it must be my age. I find him mildly irritating – like razor burn. But I do acknowledge that he is no fool – he is clearly very intelligent.


Jeremy Paxman on the other hand is equally cerebral – and a political bruiser. I quite like him – but only when in combative style.

So the revelation that Paxman agrees with Brand on the future of politics caught my eye. I didn’t see the interview but understand Brand was berating politicians for trotting out the same old same old – but getting progressively worse. He said he had never voted because of “absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class“.

Initially Paxman picked a fight – but this week has announced that he too didn’t vote at the last election and he had a message for the next,

At the next election we shall have a choice between the people who’ve given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn’t raise student fees, and then did so – the most blatant lie in recent political history

We value our freedom in this country and I am a firm believer in democracy. But you do have to wonder about how much influence we really have. I think you’ll conclude ‘none’ if you think about it long enough!

Democracy is alive and well here in Nottingham…

It’s local elections in my constituency. We are being bombarded with leaflets. The Labour folk want to dismiss our Conservative councillors – if they do so then we’ll just about have 100% Labour and no opposition…


But an alternative has arrived – who I think may just have it.

Grumpy Old Elvis might just be on the wrong side of the sanity line, but he’s got some great manifesto points. Anti-HS2 won’t get my vote, but his second manifesto point must surely be a vote winner. He wants my local pub to stop ripping us off – £1.51 for a half of John Smiths compared to £2.49 for a pint. He’s written to the brewery, but is waiting for a response. Odd that. Guess they hear a lot from Elvis.

I can’t subject you to his you tube video – because it is so bad, but there is a beautiful poem on it, which I hope he’ll appreciate me sharing with you, it goes like this:

Us rabbits like bonking in our underground property,
If your train spoils our fun,
We’ll come to your garden and eat all your broccoli.

This squares with his policy on ‘Alien animals’. The truly superb solution, “nothing at all apart from sending poodles back to France if they haven’t got a job“.

This is just what what we need in Nottingham.

Spineless Politics?

I was interested to read John Forkin’s recent blog post on the Invest in Derby site. You can read it here.

You can read it for yourself – and I encourage you to do so. But it is the story of when he met Vince Cable. It sounds rather depressing – a moment when those present thought Vince was a man uncomfortable in his shoes. A man who would listen carefully and was, in response, ‘diplomatic’.

Perhaps this is what is wrong with Politics. The diplomacy. The lack of conviction. The vote protecting perhaps.

Have we really got to the stage where no one says anything for fear of offence, or, more likely, legal challenge? Surely not?

I have few memories of my University Degree except for one Lecturer who implored us to ‘question everything’. Be inquisitive, push the boundaries. Just because it has always been that way doesn’t mean that it always must be that way. We can’t have anarchy – we need some basic rules, but we must be able to throw down the gauntlet against the status-quo.

We have a duty to question things – it is how we make progress as a society? Did America put a man on the moon by “listening”?

We have to have people with the balls to make decisions that change things…

And if they haven’t then they should move out of the way – and go and run something a little less contentious – a Library perhaps?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Bombardier Transportation, , Derbyshire, Invest in Derby, John Forkin, , Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, Siemens, Thameslink, Vince Cable

Times when you should keep your head down?

The ‘phone tapping scandal has been a pretty awful period for a lot of people. Murdoch, Hayman, Brooks and Stephenson have occupied our screens in the last couple of weeks.

Rebekah Brooks - the Devil incarnate?

I take little interest really – it’s the stuff of tabloids. At the heart of it though – the fact that there appears to be routine and widespread tapping of peoples ‘phones (often people who are grieving or in a bad place) is just appalling. It beggars belief – and shows how far the newspapers were prepared to go to get a story.

That’s not actually my beef today. We have seen a procession of MP’s come out (including Ed Miliband) who ‘demand’ heads on spikes. Their ‘Holier than Thou’ approach is just irritating – Miliband was on the radio last week telling how he had demanded Rebekah Brooks resignation two weeks ago when the story first broke. He ‘demanded’ it? Is he her boss? But more importantly does he have such a place on that moral high ground that he can do such things.

As with most of these stories I suspect that lots of people knew little bits of the story. We will probably never know who knew what.

What was evident from the TV coverage was that Rebekah Brooks was very well connected. She seemed to be on pretty good terms with Blair, Brown and Cameron. I guess that was the pond she swam in. They presumably thought that she was good for them – they needed to keep her on their side?

But as soon as the tide of public opinion starts to turn it is amazing how quickly they can distance themselves. And ‘demand’ resignations – indignantly!

That, in my view, is as shameful as the story itself. Politics – the national sport of fools?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged British Sky Broadcasting, Brown, Cameron, Ed Miliband, Miliband, News Corporation, News International, News of the World, , Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch, Television

The Hamilton Defence

I was invited on Friday last week to the Nottingham Business Club Christmas event by Rob Green from Collins Hall Green. It was a good lunch with two very interesting speakers – Neil and Christine Hamilton.

He is, of course, a former Tory MP. He was in office between 1983 and 1997 – he was famously displaced by the Safari-suited Martin Bell. Mr & Mrs Hamilton had little nice to say about him – “sanctimonious little tw**” was the expression.

The Hamilton’s are now ‘celebrities’ – I suspect she more than he. She has appeared on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Celebrity Masterchef. He doesn’t get much of a part in the ‘two man show’ – she was asked who wears the trousers – to which she responded – “we wear a leg each – but I choose them”.

There were a few gems – SAGA apparently is an acronym for Sex and Games for the Aged. Mohamed Fayed was referred to as a small Egyptian Grocer in Knightsbridge. The ‘small grocer’ was the source of Hamilton’s bankruptcy – when he failed to persuade the Court that he had not accepted ‘cash for questions’.

But what really made me smile (in the light of my blog post last week) was that he ‘was liberated by the Electorate’ in 1997 only to establish that he was ‘unemployable in the real world’. He did confess that he ‘had been going straight for the last 14 years’.

They talked candidly about their various scrapes – including the false rape accusation and arrest in 2001 – which was entirely fabricated.

They are a feisty couple – completely mad and if ever the word ‘eccentric’ fit a couple then this was the hand and glove moment.

The image I couldn’t quite get out of my head though was the Louis Theroux interview when Christine appeared to flirt with Louis much to his and the viewers discomfort. It’s funny how some things stay with you…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Christine Hamilton, Collins Hall Green, Martin Bell, Mohamed Fayed, Neil Hamilton, , SAGA, Tory MP

I have finally decided – but it’s no good

Election Day 2010 has arrived. The great British public get a chance to decide who tries to get us out of the almighty mess the UK is in. It has been a long and bruising campaign – especially for some.

Following in the footsteps of lookalike Arnie

I had come to a decision but then sadly found out that he was not standing. I may have given a clue a few days ago, but I am firmly on the side of Jeremy Clarkson for PM. As he said, “The fact is that, with the Bank of England controlling interest rates, the Americans telling us who to fight and the EU running everything else, there is very little for the 650 braying yobs in the Palace of Westminster to do every day.”

Some of his brilliant ideas:

1. Get rid of speed cameras
2. Increase the speed limit to 150mph on motorways
3. Make all HGV traffic travel only at night
4. Encourage global warming – we would be ok with LA’s weather?
5. Ban Health and Safety
6. Encourage smoking – it helps keep the young from getting old?
7. End recycling – just one bin collected once per week.
8. Kick out bureaucrats

This has a lot going for it…

Sadly, the sensible parties are the only ones you can put a cross next to. Which is a shame.

[p.s Clearly as a sensible law abiding green-going member of society I find these suggestions rather silly and of little merit - honest.]

The race is on… have you noticed?

In case you hadn’t noticed – the race is on. The election has been called and the runners and riders are lined up. I can’t help but wonder if there is any enthusiasm to engage with the process.

Its a limited choice...

The last six months or so have submerged politicians to a level below the famous duck pond. Mired in the expenses scandal, they appear to be a cynical shower. And no party has really escaped the backlash.

However, in view of the current economic situation, this is probably the most important election for many years.

Looking within my world of commercial property, what has changed fundamentally in the last 13 years since the last time we had a ‘competitive’ election and how can the next Government help the property market?

One area has to be the amount of red tape and regulation. The rules and regulations now permeate every part of what I do – from having risk assessments before visiting a site to checking if there is an asbestos register to making sure there is an Energy Performance Certificate.

Some of the regulation is perfectly sensible – and where safety is concerned it shouldn’t be compromised. But some of the other regulation is simply a barrier to getting business done.

One field which has become increasingly complex is the planning system, which places a severe restriction on property development.

The Conservatives say they are planning major changes to the planning system with a view to making it less bureaucratic. Their current policy is for major amendments to the preparation of Local Development Frameworks together with the abolition of a whole tier of regional planning, national targets and the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The planning system would then be based on the principal of ‘open source’ with a basic national framework but with the majority of input from local communities giving local people the power to engage in the planning process.

To ensure that ‘nimbyism’ does not take root, the Tories are also proposing to incentivise Local Authorities to promote development by allowing them to keep any Council Tax from new homes for a period of six years.

It will be interesting to see other plans as the manifestos unfold.

The other feature of the last 13 years has been the increase of stealth taxes including Stamp Duty Land Tax, landfill tax and empty property rates.

We need to quickly reverse the empty property rates legislation – before we have ‘constructively vandalised’ too many of our perfectly good buildings. These stand empty because of the market – not a lack of desire to let on the part of the owner. No Party has pledged this – they claim not to be able to afford to.

Stamp Duty is now a potential barrier to the market. Property needs to have liquidity and a 4% tax on transactions over £500,000 is a significant sum. A reduction could help the market.

Rumours of a VAT hike if the Tories come to power are not helpful – especially for our non-VAT registered clients. It impacts on fee costs and building works.

Of course, the real feature of the last few years has been the rise and fall in property values. Hard evidence is always difficult to find, but there are examples of falls in values of up to 50%. The property sector has been hit hard by the recession and we are not out of it yet. The inevitable cuts in public sector spending are likely to further impact on the property and construction sectors especially if unemployment increases as a consequence.

An important characteristic of a healthy property market is the availability of bank finance. Whilst it is obviously important that proper regulation of financial institutions is put in place to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the ‘credit crunch’, any control should be as light-fingered as possible as there is a danger of over-reaction, which could stifle the whole banking system.

Whatever else is needed out of the forthcoming election, a prerequisite is a firm mandate for one of the leading parties so that they can take the difficult decisions required on the economy as soon as possible. It is only in times of economic growth where rents are rising steadily that the property development market can flourish.

So it’s back to the race. Bookmakers are expecting a record £25m of bets on what is being called the tightest election for a generation – though that will still only be one tenth of the sum gambled on this year’s Grand National. Does this mean a complete apathy for politics? Probably, but if you don’t vote then you can hardly complain about the winner of the race.