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Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

West Midlands

property advantage – the guide to regional development & regeneration

City projects earn praise from capital. Birmingham grabs plaudits from the great & the good

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Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Contents

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inside advantage From your Editor, Ian Halstead Signs of a new approach to economic development are beginning to emerge from Birmingham’s Alpha Tower, and not before time. The city council’s previous urban regeneration strategy was underpinned by the belief that a strong property market would stimulate both inward investment, and bring forward development sites and schemes. No-one suggested an alternative view during the boom years, but the brutal impact of recession, followed by the subsequent departures of both Clive Dutton and Philip Singleton, has cast doubt on such an optimistic model. Now it seems, the council’s preference is for a radical new approach, in which property-led regeneration will be just one element of its regeneration strategy.

Two of its assistant directors are increasingly to the fore; with Waheed Nazir driving forward the Big City Plan, and Jack Glonek bringing together inward investment, employment, skills and economic development. The latter’s brief will also cover both Locate in Birmingham and Marketing Birmingham, who will soon - as the public sector jargon has it - be ’co-locating’. Inevitably, we will be into the first quarter of 2010 before the new strategic direction of the merged organisations can be seen, although the logic of such a move is evident. However, it is still unclear as to who will ultimately take the top job in Alpha Tower, or even if the council’s labyrinthine recruitment process will begin before Christmas. It now seems likely that Dutton’s successor will still not have arrived before next spring, so the Nazir-Glonek axis will be severely tested in its early months. Yours, Ian Halstead Editor Property Advantage

Front cover image: Regal Property has submitted an outline application for its proposed £125m skyscraper in Birmingham‘s Broad Street. The 56-storey Regal Tower, unveiled at MIPIM 2009, features a luxury 289-bed hotel, 250 serviced apartments, and three floors of penthouses, with a parade of boutiques on the ground floor. If the plans are approved, Regal says site work could start before Christmas 2010. DTZ is providing planning advice. Our eyecatching cover image comes courtesy of Aedas Architects.

Contents 04 Sustainability. – Capita’s Gary Church goes solo. – Quakers preach a new gospel. – BPF’s Liz Peace on the warpath. – HCA kick-starts Walsall scheme. – Public sector squeeze is on. 19 Birmingham. – City projects earn plaudits. – Hi-tech foil roof for New Street. 27 Points of View. – Overseas investment is vital. – Housing spend needs tight focus. 31 Staffordshire. – High-value jobs to stay in North Staffs. – InStaffs chief is forced to go.

Property Advantage is conceived, designed & produced for you by: Open Box 32–35 Hall Street Birmingham B18 6BS +44 (0) 121 608 2300 www.openboxpublishing.co.uk Directors. Samantha Skiller sam.skiller@openboxpublishing.co.uk Stuart Walters stuart.walters@openboxpublishing.co.uk Design & Art Direction. Lee Murphy lee.murphy@openboxpublishing.co.uk Editor. Ian Halstead halsteadian@aol.com The Publishers wish to emphasise that the opinions expressed in propertyadvantage are not representative of Open Box Publishing Limited and accept no responsibility for the views expressed by our contributors.”


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: Basepoint

The changing face of Managed Workspace Financial experts and market commentators continue to provide conflicting opinions on the recession, leading to confusion as to whether it is over or not. Nevertheless, uncertainty about the economy and its impact on business is likely to continue for some time. If we are to recreate and maintain growth, the Managed Workspace sector will play an important role.

Business and working patterns are evolving and will continue to do so. Many SMEs are consolidating, there will be more start up companies and many will be seeking flexible workspace with good broadband, easy access to the reformed business support network, and a place within a business community. Experienced and established managed workspace operators will continue to provide such environments in the form of enterprise and general business centres, and some will

additionally work in partnership with the Public Sector where employment as an integral part of regeneration is the agenda. One such operator, Basepoint, with 25 Business Centres across the South and into the Midlands, is well positioned and determined to further evolve its successful model, created initially towards the end of the last recession.

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Development Director, Phil Stansfield, was around when the first Basepoint centre was built 16 years ago and has seen the business grow by carefully maintaining a balance between centres delivered and operated privately, and those fully or partly funded by the Public Sector. “Our strength is our experience in developing and running managed workspace and business incubators and then creating long term connectivity with the local business and wider community, including universities and colleges,” said Phil Stansfield. “The fact that any profitability from our business is gift aided to our owners,The ACT Foundation, a registered charity, sets us apart from our competitors and adds to our credentials for participation in regeneration projects.” Basepoint has already conceived and delivered 5 Enterprise and Innovation Centres for the Public Sector, each of which runs successfully, and a number of which have achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’ environmental accreditation.


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Sustainability

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Church leaves Capita to go solo as sustainable agenda takes off One of the region’s best-known architects has quit the security of a major corporate,to launch his own Birmingham-based practice. Gary Church [01] has headed Capita Architecture‘s regional operation, since it acquired the Birmingham office of his original Church Lukas vehicle five years ago. Now though, he has left to establish another venture, based in Newhall Street, and under the NewChurch - IAE brand. It seems a brave time to go solo, with the private sector property market still in the doldrums, and public sector finances under increasing pressure, but Gary is sanguine about the challenges ahead. “I set up Church Lukas in 1992, when the economy was still in recession, and to be honest I’d been considering the move for a little while,” he says. “I do prefer working with smaller teams when you have more control, than being inside a large corporate organisation.” Neil Stapleton has joined NewChurch as an associate director, which also recalls Gary’s first venture. “It was just a coincidence. Neil heard that I was leaving Capita, and got in touch. I had moved to Tenbury Wells, and in turned out that he was living five or six miles away,” says Gary. “Neil had worked with me in Nottingham, and we thought it made sense to team up again.” However, when the decision came about the location for their new practice, working from home in the rural backwaters of Worcestershire wasn’t an option. “It’s a beautiful place to live,

and a great place to get home to, but we knew we had to be based in Birmingham, or we’d have been too far out of the loop,” admits Gary. He is also continuing to work with the Tyseley-based wire maker Webster & Horsfall, which aims to create the 14-acre Tyseley Energy Park; a strategic waste and energy location, alongside the Veolia incinerator. Horsfalls, which is still run by members of its founding family, is one of the country’s oldest manufacturers, and will celebrate its 300th anniversary if it survives until 2020. “The client wanted to stick by me, and I was delighted to be involved with their project.” says Gary. They’re consolidating their existing operations, and will then have around eight acres of redundant space, and other land, so I’ve been masterplanning the scheme. “It would be a good place for recycling-type companies, because there aren’t many places when you can put such businesses in urban areas.” Even before the outline application went in, Gary reports significant interest both from potential occupiers and Veolia itself, whose plant has been turning rubbish into electricity for the National Grid since the mid-90s. “There’s a window, of perhaps three to five years, when the waste disposal sector is being really driven by the EU, and lots of people are looking to set up recycling plants, which are essentially sheds with lots of clever kit inside,” he says. Gary is confident that similar waste disposal sites will develop rapidly, whether funded from private or public sector. “It’s amazing how quickly

01 sustainability has come to the fore in the last three or four years. At one time, it was seen by some as an option, but now it has come to the absolute top of the agenda,” he says. “We’ve already got a code for sustainable homes, and it won’t be long before there is one for sustainable buildings.” Gary’s fledgling venture is already working with two sizeable clients, Calthorpe Estates and Willmott Dixon, who are equally wedded to the environmental agenda.

“We’ve got an instruction from Calthorpe, and they have always set out to achieve very high levels of sustainability in all their schemes, because they want to retain them, and to manage them for the long-term. “More than most developers, they understand the relevance of monitoring life-cycle costs, as do Willmott’s. I’m managing a couple of academy bids for them, the Tamworth one is almost ready to go in, and they’ll be looking to achieve a Very Good BREEAM rating.”


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Advertisement Feature: ARUP

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Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Sustainability

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Quakers preach gospel of conservation as meeting house aims for zero emissions Quakers have a tradition of silent contemplation, but in Birmingham, they are proudly preaching the new gospel of energy conservation. The group’s Meeting House in Cotteridge will soon be carbon-free, after a remarkable fund-raising drive which has already spanned five years. The Watford Road building was built in 1964 with under-floor heating and storage heaters, but since 2005 it has gradually been turned into what environmentalists call a ’warm box’. During 2010, the Meeting House will finally achieve zero emissions, saving 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, and

01 Tim Abbots [01] has joined Edgbaston-based Calthorpe, in the new role of director of estates. He was previously asset management director for Capital Income Trust Group, in London, managing a portfolio worth some £3.5 billion in the UK and Germany.

02 slashing energy bills by £6,000. The city council sees the project as an eco-beacon, demonstrating what can be achieved by community commitment to the cause of conservation. Quaker member Harriet Martin says the original solid walls have been dry-lined, all fifty large windows now have argonfilled double-glazing units in the original wooden frames, and five air-source heat pumps use cool outside air to heat the premises. Special low-energy Megaman spotlights have been installed, and a network of meters enables the various users of the building to monitor their power consumption. “I’m sure the building was energy efficient for its time, but of course so much has changed over the last 40 years, in terms of technology and our understanding of the environment, “ says Harriet. “When we realised just how energy-hungry our house was, we decided to see what we could do, to reduce its carbon emissions and as an example to others.

“The Quaker movement has always had an interest in living simply, although when our group was founded in the 17th century, the main issue was about how much lace you put on your collar.” The current stage is to lay a new roof, with 160mm of insulation [02] under a waterproof membrane, funded by a £15,000 grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust. Among the other organisations to have assisted are the Central England Quaker Meeting Building Fund, Britain’s Yearly Meetings Fund, the Sir James Reckitt Charity, the J.A. Gillett Charitable Trust, the Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust and the CG & HH Taylor Trust. At the moment, the project has cost £94,000 and Harriet

says the final phase will to raise £25,000 for solar panels, matching the money on offer from the government’s lowcarbon buildings programme, and enabling the building to become carbon-neutral. The Meeting House is much more than a place for contemplation, and has effectively become a community centre for the suburb. “There are so many groups using the building, from the National Trust and WeightWatchers, to a patchwork group and an adult education class studying archaeology,” says Harriet, with evident pride. “It wouldn‘t make sense to raise all this money just for a weekly place of worship, but it’s so busy that everyone benefits from the lower energy bills.” Deputy council leader, Councillor Paul Tilsley, leads the authority’s efforts on climate change and sustainability, and admits he’s been very impressed by the Quakers’ dedication to the environmental cause. “Their efforts offer a shining example for organisations of all sizes to follow. The way they have turned their meeting house into a modern, warm and insulated property is an inspiring story,” he says. “The challenge we face is huge, but if others show as much dedication, we will all be able to enjoy a society polluted by fewer carbon emissions.” Cotteridge has also become an examplar for other Quaker Meetings across the Midlands. “Leicester came to look us over, they are now insulating their main roof, and replacing their old storage heaters with gas boilers and radiators,” says Harriet. “Stourbridge have dry-lined their main room and put in a new heating system. Warwick are now looking to install solar power, and I know Edgbaston and Hall Green have also been very interested to see what we have achieved.”


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Advertisement Feature: Staffordshire Borough Council / Sustainable Services

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Low carbon CODE FOR communities to be rolled out SUSTAINABLE across Stafford HOMES Borough... ACHIEVING THE:

After the successful launch of Derrington Way Ahead, Stafford Borough’s first aspiring low carbon community, the hunt is on for more areas that can significantly reduce their effect on our climate by becoming more sustainable. The successful communities will receive concerted support from Stafford Borough Council as part of their climate change and sustainable development programme. Derrington Way Ahead asked villagers about their priorities and consequently held a Local Food Festival that inspired cuts in food miles. Other communities may choose to concentrate on green energy, sustainable transport or home insulation. Stafford Borough Council will back a series of new low carbon communities over the next few years. The project will assess communities by looking at social, economic and environmental indicators and local groups willing to take up the challenge.

Sustainable Services Ltd. specialises in advising project teams how they can best achieve the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH).

The CSH is a government initiative to help new-build housing to integrate higher levels of sustainability. It covers issues such as reducing CO2 emissions & water consumption; improved daylighting and enhancing site ecology. The CSH has six levels, with Level 6 representing a ‘zero carbon’ dwelling. Achieving a CSH level is a combination of achieving Mandatory Elements and a Flexible Score. Sustainable Services Ltd has been involved in the CSH at all levels and has experience of certifying over 75 EcoHomes & CSH sites. We also provide a range of other services to support the process. Please feel free to contact Neil Franks on 01905 797 602 to discuss how the Code for Sustainable Homes may affect one of your schemes. Sustainable Services is a sustainability consultancy company based in Droitwich, Worcestershire. We specialise in helping new housing projects to achieve higher levels of sustainability by providing the following services. –– Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) –– Design Advice & Certification –– New-build SAP Calculations & –– Energy Performance Certificates –– Consultancy on achieving Part L & –– Code for Sustainable Homes ENE1 Mandatory Requirements –– Low/ Zero Carbon Energy Feasibility Studies –– BREEAM Multi-Residential Design Advice & Certification –– CSH-based Daylighting Analysis

Sustainable Services PO Box 188, Droitwich, WR9 1AE Tel: 01905 797 602 Email: enquiry@sustainable-services-ltd.com


Property Advantage West Midlands

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Sustainability

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BPF’s Liz Peace urges government to accept that less really is more Sustainability may be the word of the moment, but one of the country’s best-known property figures believes the complexity of the government’s agenda is hampering progress. British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace [01-02] - speaking on a brief visit to her home city of Birmingham - said investors and developers had accepted that future-proofing was essential for new buildings. “They realise that potential occupiers of Grade A space, whether corporates or public sector bodies, will be concerned about such issues as sustainable energy, and

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efficient use of all their office’s resources,” she says. “No-one is going to build, or invest in, large buildings which are polluting the atmosphere, because of the move towards corporate social responsibility, and the realisation that energy costs must be reined in. ”Developers are also keenly aware that first movers should benefit from the enhanced value of their schemes, so for different reasons, the environmental agenda has become widely accepted within the property community.” However, Liz says the government could do much more to drive forward the cause of sustainability, into both the private and public sectors. “A great deal of confusion

has been caused by Whitehall‘s inability to understand that less really is more on this issue,” she says. “We have four different government departments dabbling around with a raft of separate initiatives, which regularly collide with each other. “We have a Carbon Reduction Commitment, which ignores the fact that 60% of buildings are not owned by the occupier. We are told that companies using inefficient buildings will have their energy use monitored, but they aren’t the people responsible for developing the space.” The BPF leader also believes

01 the government’s obsession with new-build houses is preventing cost-effective changes to current housing stock. “We hear so much from ministers about the need to build homes fit for the 21st century, when the focus should really be on retro-fitting efficient heating systems, and loft and wall insulation, to the houses built in the 19th century,” she says. “Even in the boom times, we only replaced between one and two per cent of our housing stock each year, so if the sustainability agenda is to be driven forward, there is a much greater need to improve the efficiency of old houses. “The changes can be as basic as installing a new boiler, or even just fitting energy-efficient bulbs, and turning the lights off, but the government does need to understand that focusing purely on new-build will not work.” Liz urges the government to rationalise its sustainability programmes, and introduce incentives for both local authorities and home-owners to retro-fit properties. “We need good strong leadership from central government on this issue. Councils know what needs to be done, but there is enormous pressure on their budgets, as there is on the finances of individuals,” she says. “When money is tight, it’s easy to understand why the environmental messages are put to one side. Instead of wasting millions on glossy advertising campaigns, the government would be better off simply rewarding those who increase the efficiency of their homes.”


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Sustainability

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Parky rates Walsall regenco but calls for greater clarity

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Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Sustainability

Britain’s best-known urban thinker has given Walsall’s regeneration company high marks, in a review of its first five years. Professor Michael Parkinson [02], of Liverpool’s John Moores University, was commissioned by the WRC to benchmark its achievements against its strategy, and to offer signposts to its future. The researchers quizzed almost 40 people; including local councillors and officers, senior managers from Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA), staff from the further education and health sectors, and representatives from other organisations. Parkinson and his team crunched the numbers on WRC‘s balance sheet, identified its current funding streams and spending patterns, and suggested how it could evolve into differing business models. Not surprisingly - given the track record of the regenco, its departing chairman Ben Reid [03], and chief executive Dr Peter Cromar - the resultant 54-page report contains much supportive analysis. It concludes that the regeneration company is well regarded by the public, private and community sectors, that both Reid and Cromar are influential and well-regarded, and that the organisation has raised the profile, aspiration and quality of Walsall’s development pipeline. The report also addresses the regency’s most critical short-term issue, future financial commitment from its three main partners; Walsall MBC, AWM and the HCA. “Funding pressures upon them are being passed on to WRC, creating … institutional uncertainty which must be addressed,” it says. “The partners need to be clear about their expectations of themselves, and the WRC, and the financial and political commitment they will be able to make after the 2009-2010 financial year.” The comment is unarguable - and could equally apply to any regenco in England and Wales but as with much of Parkinson’s work, a crisp rebuke follows the academic musings. “A collective transparent conversation between the three funding partners, about the future, has not yet been had,” says the report. “Now is the time for that conversation to take place, the options to be considered and

firm decisions to be made.” However, having indicated that the council, AWM and the HCA need to dovetail their diary commitments pretty swiftly, Parkinson also suggests that the regenco needs to work on its communication skills. “Some concerns were raised about the WRC. They were on the whole a minority view, but are issues it would need to address in future,” says the report. “It is crucial that there is clarity about who is expected do what, and who takes credit for what. There is not sufficient clarity in Walsall.“ The comment - which is in line with WRC’s brief that Prof Parkinson should act as its ’critical friend’ - is supported by anonymous comments attributed to senior councillors and officers. “The local authority does a hell of a lot of the slog, which is not always understood and appreciated. It can be frustrating if someone else takes the credit,” says one of the former. “The board do not always understand what is going on in the borough, outside their patch. If the

ahead, to ensure that councillors, officers and WRC board members are of like mind with regard to the complex proposals. Walsall’s deputy council leader, Councillor Adrian Andrew, certainly understands the concept, and also accepts that the scheme is one for the medium-term. “It isn’t going to be a ’big bang’ project. We see the Gigaport coming forward over the next five to ten years,” he says. “It’s a question of everyone having faith in the town, and in what we are trying to achieve. Some people seem to hear news of a proposed scheme, and then expect it to happen overnight.” Coun. Andrew does accept the report’s wider suggestion about the need for greater clarity, about who does what though. “It is up to the WRC to devise

URC goes on, it must follow the priorities of the borough, through the local strategic partnership and the council,” says another. However, the most acerbic comment comes from an un-named council officer, who must have missed the series of presentations about WRC’s ambitious Gigaport concept; which aims to transform 55 acres of the town centre into an global location for the latest fibre-optic platforms. “I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it will work. I am not sure we could deliver it. At one level, we have stuck some plastic under the ground.” Parkinson comments that “many struggle with the (Gigaport) idea”, suggesting there is work

strategy, to open doors, and to identify the major schemes, but a lot of the nitty-gritty is then done by council officers,” he says. “Sometimes there are misconceptions, mainly from opposition members and the public, although sometimes from my own members, that everything is done by the WRC. “They don’t seem to realise how much comes from the council. Behind the scenes, work on the Darlaston strategic development area, for example, is being driven by our officers.” However, Coun. Andrew is swift to stress that the issue is considered simply about communications, and not seen as a handicap to the ongoing relationship between the council and its regenco. He was appointed to the council’s cabinet in May 2004, and given the portfolio for regeneration and enterprise just as Walsall’s regenco began its operations, so is well-placed to judge its progress, and its prospects.

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“I think Parkinson is right to highlight the WRC’s achievements. Peter Cromar and Ben Reid have done a tremendous job at reaching those who want to invest in the town. They have raised Walsall’s profile, and got people talking about what is happening here. “You look at what has happened at Walsall College. When I joined the cabinet, the idea of a new college wasn’t even in our minds, but now it is built, open and teaching 4,000 kids, and providing training for 8,000 adults. “At the end of October, Walsall also won the largest HCA grant outside London, when we received £8.5 million to kick-start the Waterfront South scheme [01], where Jessup will be building almost 160 homes, in partnership with Accord Housing Association.” Recent months have seen the death knell sounded for urban regeneration organisations in Telford and Sandwell, after AWM, the HCA and their respective local authorities ended their funding, from the start of the 2010 financial year, but Coun. Andrew is confident of WRC’s survival. “It’s a streamlined organisation, so we can see it makes efficient use of its resources, and the relationship between Peter Cromar and the elected members is strong, and at a personal level too,” he says. “However, as Professor Parkinson’s report makes clear, there is increasing pressure on public sector finances. We will have to cut our costs accordingly, and no public sector organisation can be exempt from scrutiny. “We have a good understanding with AWM and the HCA in Walsall, but it is obvious that we do need to get more private sector finance into our projects.” “However, just as the people of Walsall must have faith in us, we do have faith in WRC, what it has achieved for the town, and what it will continue to achieve.” Parkinson’s report concludes by suggesting that WRC should be given assured funding until the end of the 2011 financial year, although he accepts that its budget, and its business plan, might need revision to reflect the changing circumstances. With the council squarely behind its regenco, and no public murmurings of dissent from AWM or the HCA, it would seem that WRC’s future is assured, but clearly there will be tough talking and tough decisions ahead.


UK DOORSETS UK DOORSETS UK DOORSETS UK DOORSETS

Property Advantage West Midlands

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Advertisement Feature: UK Doorsets / Bromsgrove District Council / Keepmoat

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Property Advantage West Midlands

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Sustainability

Phillip helps squeeze the most out of public sector’s assets The public sector’s increasing need for finance has seen Grant Thornton infrastructure partner Phillip Woolley win contracts with a string of clients across the country. Confidentiality clauses mean he can’t identify the local authorities, county councils and NHS organisations involved, but they do range from the NorthEast and the North-West, to the East Midlands and London. Phillip [01] modestly attributes his success to Grant Thornton’s expertise at putting publicprivate partnerships together, but there is no doubt that the asset management services on offer have struck a chord with those eager to extract the most from their property portfolios. “As public sector finances come under increasing pressure, it is critical to get the maximum value from your assets, and we have evolved a bespoke methodology for identifying those which we believe are under-utilised,” he says “You can achieve increased returns now, or you can do things with your estate which will benefit you when the upturn arrives. You might want to use this time to put together a delivery ‘vehicle’ which will then give you a head start.” Philip says some of the development pipelines involved are of a very significant scale; in the £500 million to £1.5 billion range. The Grant Thornton team has just finished advising on a local asset-based vehicle for Aylesbury District Council, following earlier work with John Laing on a regeneration vehicle in Croydon. Despite the public perception of a slowdown

on the once hugely-popular Public Finance Initiatives (PFIs), Philip says most of the larger councils are still preparing such projects; notably through the Building Schools for the Future programme, and in the waste disposal and environment sectors. “There are several strategic problems facing all public sector bodies, especially involving the creation of sustainable communities, and particularly about finding the internal resources to execute projects on

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such a huge scale,” he says. “Most councils simply don’t have the systems in place, to be able to effectively monitor the utilisation of their property estate. “Often we find that some elements, typically swimming pools and community centres, are being seriously under-utilised, but because reducing their hours or closing them would cause

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such a furore, nothing has been done to maximise the value of those resources.“ However, the economic downturn is still impacting on the developers who wish to set up joint ventures and partnerships with public sector clients. “Most commentators are now calling the bottom of the market, but it is still tough for private sector companies to consider partnering, especially on the major housing projects,” says Philip. “Even where PFIs have been established, it remains difficult to assess the values involved, because the market is so quiet.” However, Philip sees the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA), and particularly its KickStart programme designed to get stalled housing schemes moving, as an increasingly influential force, especially in the fledgling ’build to rent’ sector. “The concept might not work in the very difficult urban areas, but I’d expect to see it growing in the south-east,” says Philip. “We’ve done seminars with the HCA, in Birmingham, London and Newcastle in the last few days, and judged by the feedback, the idea of ’build to rent’ is attracting a surprising amount of interest.”


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Advertisement Feature: Colmore Plaza

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Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: Colmore Plaza

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Colmore Plaza proves its sustainable credentials with new ‘excellent’ accreditation Global private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, has announced that its landmark asset Colmore Plaza [01-02] has become the first office building in Birmingham to achieve the sought after BREEAM ‘Excellent’ Management and Operation accreditation, a scheme that measures a building’s sustainable credentials once in occupation. BREEAM has always been a reliable measure of good building design but what it couldn’t do historically was measure a building’s real sustainable performance. The BREEAM Management and Operation assessment gets around this by measuring factors such as building management performance and organisational effectiveness after occupation, to get a true measure of a building’s operational sustainability. Almost two years after the building’s launch, the new assessment has proved that Colmore Plaza is extremely sustainable in use; in fact more so than the building’s initial design which previously achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ score under the original 2004 ratings. This measure therefore closes the gap between design aspiration and operational performance, something that is of increasing importance to new occupiers. With the recent success of securing Amey’s European Design Hub that is due to move into the building later this month, and ongoing interest from a number of other corporate occupiers, the newly achieved accreditation is set to raise the building’s stakes even higher in the core city centre office market, making

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Colmore Plaza the obvious choice for modern, cost and efficiency conscious businesses. Mark Harris, Director at The Carlyle Group, said: “As well as proving that the building is extremely efficient and

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sustainable in occupation, the BREEAM Management and Operation assessment exercise has also highlighted ways in which we can improve the monitoring of the building’s performance, something that is constantly assessed by our dedicated onsite building and facilities management team. “There is no doubt that this accreditation adds value to current and prospective tenants, as well as complementing the city’s aspiration to compete on a national and international level. Inward investment teams such as Locate in Birmingham continue to attract government office relocations that require new accommodation to be BREEAM Excellent standard as a minimum and Colmore Plaza is now set to meet and even exceed this requirement. “Increasingly, corporate occupiers need to demonstrate commitment to the environment and staff through a corporate social responsibility strategy. The building’s credentials will allow corporates to tick these boxes, save money and benefit from the highest specification and hi-tech building outside of London.” Mark added: “With so few buildings in the region with this accreditation, the new standard sets the building apart, particularly as the Management and Operation assessment is a more relevant and ‘real time’

measure of what occupiers are set to gain from the building’s efficiencies as well as flexibility of space on offer.” Operating a building represents a major cost. With increasing energy prices and the current economic outlook, cutting energy, water, waste and other such costs through the results of the BREEAM assessment can be a relatively easy way of improving profitability that can then be passed onto the building’s tenants, as well as improving the environmental performance, sustainability credentials and carbon footprint associated with an organisation’s accommodation.


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Advertisement Feature: Calthorpe House

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Calthorpe’s committment to ethos of sustainability is for today & the future As energy regulator OFGEM recently warned that energy bills may rise by 60% in the next six years, award winning property investor and developer Calthorpe Estates describes how investment in energy efficiency cuts operating costs and delivers sustainability targets during an economic downturn. “With nearly 300 years history of delivering sustainable development through previous economic downturns, we are committed to our green ethos and believe it is not something which can be simply discarded when times get tough” explains Graham Standring, Programme Manager at Calthorpe Estates. “Many firms have recognised the importance of operating in a more sustainable way. They can see the value of investing in energy and resource efficiency measures as a net benefit, not just a cost, with tighter regulations and rapidly rising utility bills enabling pay-back earlier than anticipated.” Calthorpe Estates long term commitment to sustainability can be seen at Calthorpe House, prominently situated near Five Ways Island in Edgbaston. The energy efficient design of Calthorpe House cuts carbon emissions 27% more than statutory requirements

for a sustainable building and is predicted to offer a 77% reduction when compared to typical pre-2002 prestige office buildings. “It is important to think long term in an economic downturn and, as well as looking at the cost per square meter of leasing a property, consider that sustainable premises like Calthorpe House will be cheaper to occupy in terms of on-going running costs than a conventional office.” The new £40 million office scheme represents best practice with respect to energy use and sustainability, and is one of the first buildings in Birmingham to achieve an environmental BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’. Mr Standring added: “We are extremely proud of the achievements with this building. Its truly green credentials offer significant cost savings with annual reductions in energy consumption, carbon emissions and water usage. For further information regarding Calthorpe House, visit www.calthorpehouse.co.uk


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Advertisement Feature: Sanctuary Group

Building a brighter future Leading housing provider Sanctuary Group aims to provide surroundings that inspire people and energise communities and, as one of the UK’s most successful and trusted housing associations, Sanctuary has never been in a better position to achieve its aims. But today’s homes also need to be sustainable and stand the test of time; they should contribute and enhance the quality of residents lives and be built with the future in mind. In order to protect that future, we need a greener approach

to sustainability and Sanctuary is committed to improving energy efficiency across its 75,000 properties, building well-designed homes and communities that are sensitive to the environment. This means lower carbon emissions and cheaper fuel bills for our tenants and greener neighbourhoods which minimise our environmental impact. Sustainability isn’t restricted to new homes, Sanctuary is renowned for its expertise in transforming tired estates into flourishing communities where people have a real sense of community; places where they are proud to live and work. Of course, the creation of a sustainable and thriving

community goes far beyond bricks and mortar and Sanctuary works hard to balance the social, economic and environmental components necessary for neighbourhoods to thrive. A good example is the multi-

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million pound development at Bevan Lee [01] in Cannock. The key ingredient in its success was the involvement of residents who were involved at every stage from conception to completion. 128 contemporary new homes and complementary facilities such as a new community centre have brought new life into the area. And the appointment of a neighbourhood worker will ensure this continues well into the future. Working in partnership with residents is key to the Group’s success, as is working in collaboration with our business partners, by making the right connections and listening to the right people we can enhance lives and make a brighter future for our residents.


Property Advantage West Midlands

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Park Central receives vote of confidence from city centre homebuyers

It has been a challenging year for the regional property industry; however city centre homebuyers have continued to give the award winning Park Central scheme their vote of confidence throughout 2009. Crest Nicholson, the force behind the residential-led, mixed use development, looks back at what has been a successful 12 months, marked by an increase in owner occupier sales. Situated to the south west of the city centre, Park Central is a flourishing new community bordered by the major arterial routes of Bristol Street, Lee Bank Middleway and Bath Row. A selection of contemporary one bedroom apartments is currently available priced from just £95,000, with two bedroom apartments available from £126,950. Jo Parker, sales manager at Park Central, said: “At Park Central, we reacted very quickly to the challenges of the property market and introduced

government assistance schemes to help put home-ownership within reach of prospective purchasers. By responding in this way, and by understanding our target market and providing competitively priced new homes, we have maintained a strong flow of sales – particularly among first time buyers. This year we have seen sales to owner occupiers increase considerably compared to figures for 2007 and 2008.” Eligible purchasers with a household income of less than £60,000 can take advantage of Homebuy Direct at Park Central, and benefit from the government covering up to 30 per cent of the property price with a loan. This then leaves the buyer to raise a more affordable mortgage for the remaining 70 per cent. Park Central is a partnership between Crest Nicholson, and joint landowners Birmingham City Council and Optima Community Association. The Park Central marketing suite is open daily from 10am to 5pm and is located at 2 Mason Way, Birmingham B15 2EY. Tel: 0121 666 4666. www.parkcentral.co.uk

Advertisement Feature: Park Central

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Birmingham

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Local projects earn praise from the great and the good

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Raising Birmingham’s profile in London has become a recurring theme, so it was good to hear plaudits from two of the country’s most influential decision-makers on recent visits to the city. Stuart Ladds, head of relocation and regional strategy at the Office of Government Commerce, was tempted out of the capital to see Birmingham’s newest office scheme, Langley Point [01-02]. 02

Just days later, Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) chairman, Robert Napier, visited Urban Living, the housing regeneration body for Birmingham and Sandwell. Stuart is the person every developer and each local authority wants to sway, as head of the programme to shift 20,000 civil servants out of London and the South-East. He inspected Langley Point; a 44,500 sq ft chunk of Grade A office space, which will gain an ’excellent’ BREEAM rating when it completes shortly.

The scheme - being brought forward by Trigram Properties, Folkes Holdings and Corum Property on the edge of the city core at Bath Row - ticks plenty of boxes, especially for the public sector, with such features as chilled beam cooling and solarheated water technology. Ironically of course, although the government is eager to drive energy efficiency into the country’s office stock, just seven per cent of its buildings are new, and very little complies with its latest guidelines.“Much has been done to rationalise the government estate, but we still occupy too much space, with much being traditional office buildings, which are inefficient and unsustainable,” admitted Stuart. “New legislation brings additional challenges, especially when applied to an estate which is diverse, complex, and constrained by age, configuration and historical significance, which is why we need to look at more sustainable options.“

As Birmingham’s only building under 100,000 sq ft with such a high BREEAM rating, and within minutes of New Street Station, joint agents GBR and Drivers Jonas are bullish about the scheme’s prospects of winning a high-profile public sector relocation. Meanwhile, the HCA’s Napier enjoyed a serious tour of the inner city, visiting schemes in West Bromwich, Smethwick, Lozells and Newtown run by Urban Living. The latter’s chief executive, Peter Latchford, held his breath as his urbane visitor chatted with residents for their take on the projects, but everyone seemed contented by the outcome. “In the current economic climate, it’s refreshing to see lots happening in spite of the downturn in the housing market and I’m particularly heartened to see so much ‘grassroots’ activity also underway,” said Napier. “Regeneration is about far more than just bricks and mortar and, together with its partners, Urban Living is tackling big issues, such as community cohesion and sustainable living.” “Partnership working is at the heart of everything we do so it was good to have the opportunity to showcase areas where it has been particularly successful,” added Latchford.


Property Advantage West Midlands

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Advertisement Feature: Highcross / Livery Place

BWB Consulting selects Highcross’ Livery Place 01

Highcross has attracted new tenant, BWB Consulting to its recently refurbished Livery Place offices in Birmingham. The firm has taken 2,267 sq ft on a five-year lease. BWB Consulting is a leading UK Integrated Engineering and Environmental Consultancy, delivering multi-disciplinary engineering solutions to the property, development and construction industry. Andy Passmore of BWB Consulting said the decision to take new space at Livery Place demonstrates their commitment to their clients and projects in the West Midlands and the building: “We are looking forward to further developing the firm’s West Midlands operation within an exciting new business environment.” Ben Thacker of GBR, which acted for BWB Consulting added: “BWB was very clear about its occupational requirements from the outset and Livery Place provided the perfect solution. The whole process was successful as a result of Highcross’ flexible and commercial approach to leasing.” Following extensive refurbishment, the Livery Place offices offer Grade A space from 950 sq ft – 60,000 sq ft in a city centre location. First to move in was Highcross’ Midlands team which relocated earlier this year, to a 1,400 sq ft suite. Joe Curlett, asset manager at Highcross commented: “Our ability to provide flexible, pragmatic, cost–effective and high quality solutions to meet the specific needs of occupiers, means Livery Place is as suitable for small businesses as major corporates.” Further information is available at www.liveryplace.co.uk. Letting agents for Livery Place are GBR and CB Richard Ellis.

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[01] Left to right, Joe Curlett of Highcross, Andy Passmore of BWB and Ben Thacker of GBR at the entrance to Livery Place. For further information contact: Joe Curlett at Highcross on 0121 2301562. Helen Symes/ Phil Bryant at Hallmark PR on 01962 774833 email: helen.symes@hallmarkpr.com or phil.bryant@hallmarkpr.com


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Birmingham

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New Street gets hi-tech foil roof to counter terrorist threat The massive roof covering Birmingham’s spectacular £600 million New Street Gateway [01] will be made from the same foil which protects greenhouse tomatoes, Network Rail has revealed. Companies capable of supplying the 100-metre by 50-metre structure, made from ethylene tetra-fluoro ethylene (ETFE) and its supporting steel framework, are being invited to tender for the contract, which will be worth between £4 million and £7 million. Network Rail expects the roof, which will be designed by Foreign Office Architects (FOA), to be installed between July 2010 and December 2011. ETFE was conceived as insulation for aeronautical uses, but much later, it replaced polythene in the greenhouse tunnels for commercial fruit and flower growers. The foil is biodegradable, can last between 25 years and 40 years, is remarkably resistant to tears, and can admit both natural light and ultra-violet rays, allowing it to fit perfectly into a sustainable building strategy. However, Richard Kirkman, Network Rail’s ‘scheme sponsor’ for New Street, admits that ETFE also has another major attraction, particularly for a highprofile infrastructure project at the heart of a major city. “We have to consider possible terrorist threats, so it makes sense to use what is effectively air-filled plastic, rather than glass,” he says.

FTFE weighs barely 1% of its equivalent in glass, and although upfront installation costs are higher, the subsequent safety benefits are evident. Public consultation about FOA’s design ended in October, when around 3,000 people expressed views, and talks are now underway with the city council‘s planning team, the train operators, Centro and Advantage West Midlands (AWM). “Some of the train companies might not be operating franchises through New Street, when the new station opens, but they are all contributing positively and suggesting refinements for the designs,” says Richard. “We expect the final designs to be completed in the first quarter of 2010, allowing us to start major infrastructure work later that year. We certainly expect station works to start before Easter next year.” The new concourse will be built in the lower area of the existing NCP car-park, allowing several phases of the Gateway project to proceed out-of-sight to passengers. “In 2012, we will take down the hoardings, knock down a small bit of the old station, and people will immediately be able to see dramatic changes,” says Richard. Network Rail is currently building a giant mock-up of the new station at Bordesley, giving the various construction and consultancy teams the chance to test materials before moving on to New St. “There are various technical

01 issues to resolve, and you can’t do such work on site. We’ll see how different finishes look, how they could best be kept clean, and how different approaches to construction might work,” says Richard. “The pilings for the mock-up are going down between 15 and 20 metres, so it’s going to be built on a very significant scale.” There have been suggestions that the Gateway’s futuristic appearance is intended to mirror the Selfridges design, but Richard dismisses such rumours. “We are obviously aware

that the new station will be a landmark, and everyone is determined to create something eye-catching, which will justify its location, but we have definitely not suggested that FOA should be influenced by other buildings, here or elsewhere.” Sustainability will underpin every element of the scheme though, as would be expected from a project due to complete in 2015. “As there are advances in environmental technology, we might well fine-tune our approach as work proceeds, but in the short-term, we will focus on recycling materials from the old station,” says Richard.


Property Advantage West Midlands

“The old concrete beams and brickwork will certainly be used during construction, and in later phases we will introduce such elements as rainwater harvesting, and we hope it will be possible to install a CHP plant, which could supply the station and the Pallisades.” AWM is a major Gateway partner of course, having agreed to commit £100 million over the life of the project. Director of development, Stuart Kirkwood, describes the scheme as “one shining light of good news, in a very trying and difficult economic climate“, although he accepts that major challenges still lie ahead. “We are working on an existing building, rather than starting from scratch, trying to keep the station open throughout, and also dealing with a live and operational railway,” he says.

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Birmingham

“It is an advantage that the new concourse can be built in virtual isolation, on the old NCP site, and it is hoped to close one platform at a time when work is advanced, but it is still a very demanding project.” Stuart considers Gateway one of Birmingham’s most strategically significant schemes, along with Eastside, and agrees with his opposite number at Network Rail about its important place on the environmental agenda. “It’s not just about a new station, or even about improving the way visitors see Birmingham,

it’s a vital infrastructure project for the region, and for the country,” he says. “Trains will obviously become ever more important, as petrol costs continue to rise, and when high speed trains come in, travel times will be cut not just to London, but to Manchester and Scotland.” It might be expected that someone born in Glasgow would get his homeland into the conversation, but Stuart is adamant that he isn’t wearing tartan blinkers. “We can’t, and should never, regard London as the only destination which matters from New Street,” he says. “The quality of Birmingham’s train services, and its station, are

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important when considering government relocations, but connectivity between here and other regional centres is also critical. “We are very fortunate to have a main train station in the middle of the city, and as a through service, because in most cities, the main line runs into a terminus. There is no doubt New Street does have the advantages we need, as a location. ”By 2015, when Gateway is operational, I think we will soon very quickly forget about the old station, and simply celebrate the new.”


Property Advantage West Midlands

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A Green Future for Nattrass Giles Chartered Surveying practice Nattrass Giles will recently be moving into new premises situated just off St Pauls Square in the heart of Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter. The premises, known as Regent Court, was developed 10 years ago by Kingfisher Building Company and even by today’s standards is pretty impressive. “The building has a ‘B’ Energy Performance rating (and is actually only 1 unit below an ‘A’ rating)”, which as Chris Booth comments “is great for a 10 year old building and betters much of the currently available new build stock currently available”. The Directors of NG have cut down on fuel usage and invested in modern IT equipment in order to reduce energy output and are pushing forward with plans for a paperless office and capitalise on the full recycling procedures which have been in place for the past 2 years in order to progress to ISO 14001 status. The building compliments these progressive plans and as Chris Booth remarks “epitomises the progress we have made within the business over recent years. Since taking over the business 2 years ago, we have seen a year on year increase in profits (even in the recession) and now the move to new office will hopefully progress this and act as a further catalyst to further dynamic progression”. The new ‘home’ for NG is situated in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter with close proximity to the city centre, which, as director Edward Siddall-Jones remark ‘brings us closer to the majority of our clients and in the heart of an up and coming area within Birmingham City Centre’.

Advertisement Feature: Nattrass Giles / WK Cox / Rotherwas

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Rotherwas Plots Now Available for Development Rotherwas has long been the largest and the most strategically important employment area in Herefordshire, and is currently home to over 125 businesses employing 3,000 people in a wide diversity of roles. The new access road has given the estate quick and easy access to the A49, M50 and the rest of the motorway network. Construction of new infrastructure is now underway and is due to be completed by May 2010. This development is part of the Rotherwas Futures project, a £19m joint venture between Herefordshire Council and Advantage West Midlands which is expected to assist in the creation of over 850 jobs. Plots are now available for development for B1, B2 and B8 uses, from a half acre upwards, with more land ready for development from summer 2010. Companies interested in moving to Herefordshire can contact the Economic Development Team on 01432 383337 or economicinvestment@herefordshire.gov.uk.


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: Thomas Vale Group

Record month for Thomas Vale Established in 1869 Thomas Vale Construction is the principal company within the Thomas Vale Group of companies and has an annual turnover of £213 million, with Clients from both Public and Private Sectors. The company’s unique focus on our Clients is because the company is owned and managed on a day to day basis by Directors and Employees who care and are passionate about the Thomas Vale reputation, ongoing success and benefits from a growing portfolio of well satisfied Clients and numerous industry awards and accolades. Recently celebrating a record month with over £52 million of new projects secured, it has brought the companies forward order book in excess of £550 million. The largest

project for £38 million will see the company constructing a purpose designed and built office block for Birmingham City Council, providing a new work station for over 2,000 staff, replacing more expensive leased buildings in the city centre. It will also set the standards for new ways of working for its employees with the aim of delivering firstclass services to the citizens of Birmingham. The new office is a key element of the authority’s plans to deliver over £200m of gross savings by streamlining its office portfolio through the Working for the Future Business Transformation programme. Thomas Vale Construction are also involved in several projects within the education sector which will help to improve the standard

of education across the country by providing schools with the necessary facilities to ensure a high quality of teaching is implemented. Projects include, St Peters CE Primary School, in Pilning and Bradley Stoke community school for South Gloucestershire Council, with a combined contract value of £7 million. Thomas Vale Construction will also be providing Audley Junior and Infants School with new kitchen extensions for Birmingham City Council at £1.1 million along with works on Coppice and Langley at £9.1 million and Paddox Primary School Extension in Warwickshire at £1.2 million. Other community based projects include a drug rehabilitation centre in Hockley for Midland heart worth £1.2 million and Blakenhall Neighborhood Centre for Wolverhampton City Council at £4.1 million. Tony Hyde, Managing Director

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for Thomas Vale Construction said; “despite the economic downturn, the business has seen good levels of enquiries from clients who are increasingly focused on the quality of construction company they use and companies of who are financially able to perform in the regions of today”. As a local company, Thomas Vale Construction focuses on utilizing local Supply Chains. This work will secure employment for some 6,500 people on local jobs over the next 12-18 months as they take on extra staff in the future with up to 10 graduate opportunities planned. The Companies project awards will offer significant prospects in the future and will provide real opportunity for sustainable local employment and training throughout the Midlands. There are also other significant Public Sector awards in the final throws of negotiation which will provide a solid foundation for the companies’ development. As a local Midlands company, this is excellent news for the region whilst many in the sector are experiencing major problems.


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Advertisement Feature: Wolverhampton Science Park / Dudley Estates

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Looking for Commercial Property in the West Midlands? Welcome to Dudley Estates. We specialise in the development and letting of commercial property in the West Midlands, with property sites in West Bromwich, Dudley, Walsall, Tipton, Kidderminster and Halesowen.

CALL US ON:

0121 522 3461/ 3477

ALL PROPERTIES IN GREAT, HIGH PROFILE POSITIONS. • Wholesale & Retail Property to let. • Showrooms & Offices to let. • Latest commercial property to let in the West Midlands.

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Property Advantage West Midlands

By John Griffiths [01], Partner GBR Property As we move towards the end of 2009, we reflect on one of the most turbulent periods in economic history. It has become increasingly popular to assess the current state of our economy, and the prospects for recovery, by reference to a letter. However, so varied have been the views on what shape the recovery will take, it now seems as though half of the alphabet has been used in this way. The challenge that faces economists and everyone in trying to paint the picture of where we are going, is that it is never really clear until we have actually got there. If we therefore talk of a recovery next year, then quite possibly it will already have begun. The same challenges exist in terms of assessing the state of health of the property market, and determining its prospects. Back in the dark days of late2008 we all feared the worse. The free-market system that has been the bedrock of our economy at times seemed in question. In terms of the office market at that point, Birmingham had enjoyed a year of record take-up and record rents. However, the number of cranes on the horizon was clearly more a sign of how we had all felt in the past, than how we felt at that moment. Endless stories of economic and corporate doom were beamed into every office and meeting place, and even the most optimistic of us began to think 2009 would be as bad as it gets. Well, the year has been

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tough. The office market has had to cope with an influx of space, brought about by one of the most active periods of development in the city’s history, just when the professional services sector has had to tighten its belt significantly. Inevitably, the usually benign market for Grade A space - one where historically there has been a good balance between supply and demand became a real roller-coaster. However, I believe the strength and depth of any market should be judged not so much on how well it does in the good times, but how it copes in a tough market. The ability to recover from a serious downturn, and bring about a re-balance of supply and demand is a crucial factor and one that I believe tells the real tale of the Birmingham office market in 2009. Now a recovery is underway, its ‘shape’ could actually leave a very positive legacy. Firstly we are seeing the return of investors, buoyed by the perceived value for money. Whilst the UK institutions, always such a key element of the Birmingham office investor profile, have made a welcome return, what is particularly encouraging is an influx of overseas money. Demand from the sovereign

Point of View

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Inward investment creates positive legacy for the city wealth funds and overseas pension funds provides welcome proof that for the right quality of stock, Birmingham is most definitely on the ‘radar’. Early proof of this came with the Australian investment in the Bullring, and we expect more significant overseas investments in the coming months. The other positive legacy is inward investment.

For the first time this decade, Birmingham can boast a real competitive edge in terms of availability of highquality and sustainable office accommodation, labour availability and value for money. In fact following the success of drawing Amey’s new international design centre to the city, it appears likely that Birmingham will secure the Office Of Legal Complaints. I know that other active inward Investment requirements are currently being pursued,

in the IT, financial services and outsourcing sectors, amongst others. Whilst it is a recovery of the professional services sector that will herald a ‘feel good factor’ in the office market, the influx of investment from other sectors will widen the base of service sector employment in the city, and ensure that we are better paced to handle any future downturns.


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Point of View

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By Simon Marks [01], Head of regeneration at EC Harris We’ve heard much talk of the public sector ‘stimulus’, as the intended catalyst for a renaissance in private sector development activity, but little evidence of its impact. I admit it was excellent to see the go-ahead of the Building for the Future schools programme in Birmingham, but although £1.2 billion is a fantastic investment, it is surprising just how much investment each scheme soaks up. Advantage West Midlands is also doing some great work on regeneration schemes, but then had to trim back its budget because its funding had been cut by central government. We are working with the agency on schemes in North Solihull and Hereford, and I’m glad to say they’ve kept them going, but inevitably some projects will not be able to continue. I must admit, I struggle to square the idea of one Whitehall department talking about stimulus, when another is reducing support for the development agencies which are supposed to drive economic recovery in the regions. It‘s great that the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) is on the scene, and has money to spend, but I am always a little concerned about the ability of the public sector to move funds around. It’s not the people, it’s the processes and systems with which they are forced to work, but I do sense that there just isn’t the flexibility which is required, especially during a recession. Perhaps I am being naïve, but if the government’s infrastructure ’pot’ is empty, but the housing pot has plenty of money, why should it be so hard to transfer resources from one to the other?

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Big city plan must regain its impetus We know the economy has suffered from a perfect storm, with recession, followed by falling demand, and then a period in which the banks are loath to lend, but it surely should not be so hard to get government money into the areas where it is so desperately needed. We need to unlock some of the regeneration schemes which have stalled, and with the private sector struggling to access finance, the public sector does need to think very carefully about the areas for intervention. I’ve been looking at housing projects in Walsall, Sandwell and Wolverhampton recently, and when money is short supply, then everyone has to focus really tightly on making sure the investment hits the right targets.

Estate renewal programmes are critical to urban renaissance, but you can’t just try to do half-a-job everywhere, or the schemes will fail. You need to do one estate properly, to make a difference to people’s lives, and then the surrounding areas will start to benefit, and you see a ripple effect spreading. At the moment, housing is the only sector with strong demand, so it is vital that the HCA succeeds, as we certainly aren’t going to see a surge of new mixed-use schemes, or commercial developments, underway in Birmingham in the short-term. I sometimes wish I was a politician, and could influence the way the planning system works, and make the funding process more transparent and efficient, for the benefit of taxpayers and those people living in areas which require renewal, but where nothing is happening. I understand there is immense pressure on local authorities, to

bring forward houses of the right type, and the right design, and with the right infrastructure, but sometimes everything becomes bogged down in red tape. It’s obviously easy on the outside to wonder what is happening, without seeing the full picture, but I also wonder what is happening to Birmingham’s Big City Plan. It had such a great launch, the ICC event was tremendous, and there was so much enthusiasm and commitment, but now it seems to have gone quiet. Perhaps things are happening, and we just aren’t hearing about them, but we must be careful that impetus isn’t lost.”


Property Advantage West Midlands

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Staffordshire

New home for Langley keeps high-value jobs in North Staffs

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A high-tech Staffordshire manufacturer which needed a new site to expand has decided to stay in the county, thanks to InStaffs and Advantage West Midlands. They joined forces to help Langley Alloys relocate to new 22,000 sq ft premises at Centre 500, just off the A500 in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The firm, whose core business is speciality high-strength corrosion-resistant alloys, has already increased its 15-strong workforce, and believes it can now boost its £7.5m turnover by some 20%. Over £500,000 has been invested in the relocation, which more than doubles capacity, increases processing, and

provides a modern working environment for employees and customers alike. The move also allows the firm to take its innovative and high quality range of materials even further into the oil and gas sector, marine and offshore industries and power generation, where it is used to clean flue gases. Richard Shacklady, Chairman of Langley Alloys, is optimistic about the future: “This latest development marks the next stage in our history and highlights just how far we have come since we were acquired by Meighs Castings of Stoke, back in 1996, after the once proud business went into receivership. “The then-owner, John Halliday, saw the potential and incubated Langley as a division of the castings operation and, under the leadership of his son Chris, the firm grew turnover from a modest £500,000 a year to £4m by 2005. “By the end of 2006, Langley’s

growth track was such that we made Meighs Castings a subsidiary of the re-incorporated Langley Alloys Limited.” In mid-2008, the Meighs Castings Bronze foundry business was sold to MetalTek Corporation, a large USA castings operation, allowing Langley to focus on its core business of speciality high-strength corrosionresistant alloys. “As part of this strategy, a new distribution facility was a must as we needed more space and a building that suited our processes and the image we were trying to create,” recalls Richard. InStaffs worked with the management team to identify exact requirements and, through the inward investment agency’s website (www.instaffs. co.uk), St Modwen’s Centre 500 development was identified as a clear favourite. Its location, alongside the A500 and the West Coast Main

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Line, was a major bonus for Langley and the 22,000 sq ft building offered the opportunity to have the interior fitted out to its exact specification, a task Accolade of Stafford completed. Chris Halliday, Managing Director, picked up the story: “We were always keen to stay in North Staffordshire as a lot of our success is down to the skills of our workforce, who are experts in metallurgy and engineering. Our relationships with local training providers, regional colleges and the Universities were also important factors in our choice of location. “At the same time, the relocation was going to cost us in excess of £500,000 so we needed to make sure we found the right building, something that InStaffs provided excellent support with. Tony Joynson was our dedicated adviser and he was instrumental in putting us in touch with Advantage West Midlands to access the Grant for Business Investment.” Langley successfully secured £84,000 as part of the scheme and this was channelled into the fit out of new offices, materials handling and craneage and an integrated IT system covering all material movement, stocks, sales and quotations. These advancements will ensure the business builds on its reputation as a niche distributor of high-strength corrosion-resistant materials, such as proprietary grades of aluminium bronze, nickel copper alloys and a range of super duplex stainless steels. It should also encourage it to build on annual sales of more than £7.5m, 80% of which is exported all over the world. InStaffs’ Tony Joynson was delighted with the move: “One of our biggest aims is to create and retain high valued added manufacturing jobs in the area and Langley is a great example of a niche engineering specialist doing well. “Thanks to our excellent relationship with Advantage West Midlands, we were able to use GBI funding to help the company relocate into larger premises, more suited to the future. It has responded by creating four immediate posts, with the real potential for more to follow.” [01] Left to right. Richard Shacklady, Chris Halliday (both Langley Alloys), Tony Joynson (InStaffs) & Henriette LyttleBreukelaar (Advantage West Midlands)


Property Advantage West Midlands

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Advertisement Feature: Brownhill Hayward Brown

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Top awards for Lichfield architects Lichfield based architects Brownhill Hayward Brown has been highly commended for its design expertise and sensitive conversion of a 12th century Scheduled Ancient Monument in North Staffordshire. The award-winning practice in Bird Street received the plaudit in the Southern Staffordshire Partnership Design Awards 2009 for the St Thomas Priory Scheme in Baswich, North Staffordshire. The scheme comprised the re-development of dilapidated Grade II listed barns, which together with the new bespoke residential properties, provided 26 contemporary dwellings that complement their surroundings on the site of the former Augustinian Priory. The practice, which has 35 years’ experience in specialist restoration as well as new build projects, was also recognised for its contemporary design of New Minster House. This mixed use development includes 12 luxury apartments on the upper levels and a restaurant and adjoining retail units on the ground floor, all set in the historic city centre, overlooking Minster Pool and Lichfield Cathedral. Andrew Hayward, Senior Partner with Brownhill Hayward Brown, said “We are delighted to have been recognised for these schemes, which exemplify the versatility of our work. “It is well recognised that the quality of people’s work, leisure home environment and general morale and well-being can be greatly enhanced by the quality of design of the building they are in. “We are committed to continually raising standards of design in the built environment and playing our part in helping to raise the profile and the local distinctiveness of our region. As architects accredited in Building Conservation, Brownhill Hayward Brown was also instrumental in gaining

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Scheduled Ancient Monuments’ consent for the St Thomas Priory scheme, as well as the design of the overall master plan of the site that was developed by Lichfieldbased developer Fresh Space. Rob Rafferty, Fresh Space Group Managing Director said, “As a Scheduled Ancient Monument site, which included the remains of Grade II listed stable blocks from the medieval Priory, it was particularly challenging . “However, having worked with Brownhill Hayward Brown on several other important significant residential projects,

we were confident that together we could deliver an outstanding result. We believe the award is recognition that we have.” The bi-annual Southern Staffordshire Partnership Design Awards seek to promote achievement of excellence in design and construction of buildings and spaces in Southern Staffordshire, with imaginative use of public art and increasing incorporation of sustainability principles. In 2005, Brownhill Hayward Brown was highly commended for its design of the extension to the Police Mutual Assurance Society HQ Offices in Lichfield. In 2007 its design for The Stoneyard, a new build affordable housing scheme near Lichfield Cathedral and the restoration of the city’s Swan Hotel, was also highly commended. The practice has acted as master planners for a wide

range of projects nationwide. In Staffordshire these have included Alton Castle Visitor Centre and Observatory, Trentham Estate, and its exciting Trentham Monkey Forest Visitors Facility, as well as the design of numerous factories, warehouses and global dealer facilities for JCB Excavators Ltd. Brownhill Hayward Brown is also approved church architects and is involved in Historic Building Trusts projects. [01] From left to right: Charles Brown, Director; Andrew Hayward, Director; James Walch, Architectural Technologist; Adrian Mathias, Associate Architect.


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: Staffordshire County Council / WMCCE

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Ministerial visit puts construction sector successes in the spotlight The West Midlands Centre for Constructing Excellence (WMCCE) welcomed the Minister for Europe, Chris Bryant to the region as part of a tour to see the positive impact of European Regional Development Funding. WMCCE, the specialist sector support organisation, is focussed on helping to stimulate the pressurised West Midlands construction industry by promoting excellence and best practice across the sector. With financial backing from the European Regional Development Fund and Advantage West Midlands, WMCCE has provided business assistance for more

01 [01] Mister for Europe visits Smartroof on his tour to the region. From left to right: David Himmons, Smartroof; Chris Bryant, Minister for Europe; David Bucknall, Chairman WMCCE.

than 500 companies since its inception in 2005. David Bucknall, WMCCE Chairman, said: “WMCCE provides essential support to businesses looking for practical ways to ride out the current economic storm. We are delighted to welcome Chris Bryant to the region to show him how this vital funding is helping to sustain the region’s construction industry by enabling companies to develop new markets, test new products and adopt best practice.” The tour of the region included a visit to the smartroof Ltd factory in Solihull– an example of true innovation in the construction sector. A complete, eco friendly structural timber insulated panel system, smartroof creates not only

instant room space, but also more of it. With the support of WMCCE, smartroof is a great success story for the regional construction sector. The company, which is based in Hampton in Arden, provided the roofs for the UK’s first zero carbon homes. David Himmons, director, smartroof Ltd, said: Major house builders are fast appreciating the benefits that smartroof can offer, from clear health and safety advantages to faster build times, a pair of units complete in just a day. We are continually developing smartroof as the market requires improved insulation and air tightness levels.”


Property Advantage West Midlands

Staffordshire

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

InStaffs chief set to leave as councils slash budgets

One of the Midlands’ best-known inward investment experts will be axed in early 2010, as sweeping budget cuts force InStaffs to close. John de Kanter [01] was brought in as chief executive of the Stafford-based organisation when it was established thirteen years ago. The service - funded by eight local authorities, including Stoke City Council and Staffordshire County Council - swiftly established a reputation for attracting major employers, and has since been credited with persuading 320 companies to invest in the county. In its first ten years, InStaffs brought 7,600 jobs to North Staffordshire, and 16,600 to Staffordshire. Much of its success has been attributed to the relationships de Kanter established with property agents, investors and developers, and his small team was particularly effective in bringing logistics and distribution companies to the area.

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North Staffordshire earned a national reputation for the strength of its shed sector, with major developers eager to bring forward space in Stafford, Stoke and Newcastle-upon-Lyne, and along the M6, and the A41 towards Burton-on-Trent. However, it has now been revealed that de Kanter will be forced to leave before next April, as InStaffs is abolished, and his two colleagues are employed elsewhere in the county council. Councillors decided that the service was no longer providing value for money, after hearing that it had helped create or safeguard just 1,600 jobs in 2008-2009. The figure for the previous financial year had been 2,300, before the full impact of the global recession was seen on all inward investment projects.

The future of InStaffs had earlier been jeopardised by the decision of Stoke-on-Trent to withdraw its funding, and to establish its own inward investment team, under the brand ’Make it in Stoke’. John declined to discuss his position, but did reveal that his organisation was continuing to bring new employment to the county. “Inevitably, the level of general inquiries is lower than in recent years, as is being seen throughout the UK, and most activity is at the smaller end of the corporate scale,” he said. “However, there have been some pleasing successes. Fortis Insurance is creating 140 jobs at Trentham Lakes, New Look is expanding along the A50, and taking another 700,000 sq ft, and Marks & Spencer is leaving its existing unit on Radius Park, and taking almost 390,000 sq ft at ProLogis Stafford.” InStaffs has also just completed one project which has been several years in the making, the arrival of the hi-tech security specialist, Rapiscan Systems, at Biddulph, which gave John much satisfaction. Seven units totalling 50,000 sq ft have been finished at the Four Ashes Industrial Park on the rural outskirts of Wolverhampton, which will now be rebranded as The Dell, and elsewhere in the county, around 30,000 sq ft of serviced office space has just been completed at Chatterley Valley. The latter location is of course also home to Gazeley’s G Park Blue Planet scheme, which offers 365,000 sq ft of space, built to such an advanced spec that it is the world’s only building to have received an ’outstanding’ design stage BREEAM rating. The development is ‘carbon positive’ because it supplies all its own energy and heat

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through renewable sources, and its biomass power station is estimated to save occupiers around £300,000 a year in reduced energy and water costs. Blue Planet has certainly picked up the plaudits. In October, the Industrial Agents Society gave the scheme a ’green’ award for its contribution to sustainability, its fifth similar prize in less than a month. However, understandably in the depths of the worst recession for 70 years, the building has yet to attract an occupier. Gazeley’s development manager, Nigel Dolan, is pragmatic about the changes of attracting a tenant, in the short-term. “There was a great deal of interest when it was announced, and during construction, which has continued since we reached practical completion in the summer, but occupiers who want between 300,000 and 400,000 sq ft are currently thin on the ground, “ he says. “Originally, we thought someone would come here because it was the world’s most sustainable building, but now we are promoting its practical and financial benefits.” Gazeley is now contacting potential tenants who do not have a present requirement, to demonstrate what Blue Planet offers. “We’ve been talking to High Street retailers, budget retailers and distribution companies, and it has been received very well. Everyone had heard about the scheme, to different degrees, but all of them were very impressed by just what the building has to offer,” says Nigel. On the wider shed scene, he considers that footloose occupiers will be able to negotiate some ‘stonking deals‘ over the next few months, as they realise that the supply of prime space is fast dwindling. “I think, over the next year or so, that the more adventurous corporates will take a chance on the timing of the recovery, and take the space which is available, rather than risk waiting too long and having to wait for new schemes to come forward,” suggests Nigel. “I think we‘ll also see some developers, who can’t afford to keep the space on their books, very eager to offload at least some of their schemes. We don’t have to, but some will find that they are paying too much to keep buildings empty, and that should mean good deals for occupiers.”


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: North Staffordshire

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City of opportunities Stoke-on-Trent – home to popstar Robbie Williams & the world capital of ceramics is a hub of creativity and opportunity.

The city, which has been synonymous with the pottery industry for more than 250 years, is at the centre of a £1.5 billion regeneration scheme for North Staffordshire. Over the next 20 years housing, shopping, entertainment, business and education are all to be targeted to enhance an area already flourishing with opportunity. Plans include a multi-million pound shopping precinct and entertainment complex (The East West Shopping Precinct – artist’s impression opposite), 100,000sqm Central Business District (01) and state of the art bus station in Stoke-on-Trent city centre. Skills are being raised through the University Quarter in Stoke-on-Trent and additional high quality academic research facilities at Keele University. The region’s traditional town centres are being rejuvenated and there are increased business facilities for both smaller start up companies and larger relocation opportunities. “This is an exciting time in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire as a whole,” said Stoke-on-Trent city councillor Brian Ward. The cabinet member for regeneration has lived in the city most his life and is impressed with the changes taking place. “It is about bringing opportunities and ambition to an area already brimming with so much potential. We are one of few cities in the country still

01 pushing ahead with regeneration plans despite the recession. The multi-million pound University Quarter and Keele University developments are well under way. Work is progressing with the new shopping centre and a developer has recently been secured for the Business District.” The North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership is the driving force behind the region’s changes. The body brings together North Staffordshire’s councils, Advantage West Midlands, the Homes and Communities Agency, NHS Stoke on Trent, the Learning and Skills Council and business and community representatives. Working together the partnership has already in the

last 12 months successfully secured the highest ever level of regeneration investment - £158million, assisted 558 businesses and created 50 new enterprises. The first ever British Ceramics Biennial is currently in Stoke-on-Trent bringing international and local artists on to the world stage. The 40,000sqm of logistics and workshop space Blue Planet at Chatterley Valley awarded BREEAM has received an outstanding rating and work is well under way on phase one of the £285 million University Quarter. With a clear vision, hundreds of acres of development land, a skilled regeneration team and committed partners North Staffordshire is definitely the smart choice.

Recent moves North Staffordshire has good transport links and is well connected to Birmingham, Manchester and London with high speed rail journeys and three main airports in close proximity. In the past year big names investing in the region, including; • Vodafone • Wades • Marks and Spencer • Prologis • Rapiscan For further investment opportunities contact InStaffs on 01785 604060 or enquiries@ instaffs.co.uk. www.instaffs.co.uk


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: ReWyre

ReWyre Initiative The “ReWyre Initiative”, that focuses on the regeneration of Kidderminster and which could draw more than £300 million of private sector investment and help to create or safeguard up to 9,000 jobs has been signed. The investment will be complemented by a new Kidderminster Railway station interchange facility and the £130million ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which will rebuild all of the area’s High Schools. The Leader of Wyre Forest District Council, Councillor John Campion, explained: ”The agreement is a clear demonstration that the public sector partners are actively supporting the Initiative and

committed to working together to make things happen over the short, medium and longer term. It is about offering confidence to the private sector and wider community.” These proposals will need private sector investment in addition to public sector and community support.” Mark Moore, Director of Strategy Implementation at Wyre Forest based Morgan Technical Ceramics, backs the Initiative as ‘business champion’ and commented: “This is an exciting Initiative that looks to create the right environment for business and entrepreneurs. Jobs, innovation and industry all go together to create thriving communities and business leaders are looking at how the Initiative can help provide a climate in which wealth can be generated more easily. ”

Further information is available from Wyre Forest District Council’s regeneration team at regeneration@wyreforestdc.gov.uk. 01 02

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[01] A birds eye view 30 years from now… new development could transform Kidderminster Town Centre, Comberton Hill and Churchfields with new canal side developments and connected streets and attractive spaces. [02] A new InKidderminster Magazine has been launched to promote the town centre to coincide with the opening of the new flagship Debenhams store at Weavers Wharf.


Property Advantage West Midlands

Issue 21 www.propertyadvantage.info

Advertisement Feature: WMCCE

Building blocks to aid construction sector recovery The Regional Economic Taskforce has recognised the need to support the West Midlands construction industry as it continues to struggle in the recession. Under the stewardship of the West Midlands Centre for Constructing Excellence (WMCCE) the building blocks of an action plan have been put in place to help take the sector forward, pulling together and identifying initiatives and support that need to be both coordinated and communicated. Since the plan’s inception, actions confirmed as available now for construction businesses across the West Midlands region are: • Bridge Loans via Advantage West Midlands’ (AWM)’s Transition Loan Fund • Gap funding for major construction work to continue via Advantage West Midlands’ Development Gap Funding Scheme • WMCCE and Business Link West Midlands helping contractors to bid for work (e.g. for London 2012 Olympic construction work) • Subsidised apprenticeships for construction firms • Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) Kick Start programme to help unlock housing schemes affected by the credit crunch. The Action Plan initiative follows pleas from West Midlands Business Council and proposals from members including the West Midlands Developers Alliance, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and WMCCE stakeholders. The West Midlands Business Council (WMBC) has praised the Minister for the West Midlands, Ian Austin MP for responding positively. George Marsh, former chair of WMCCE, who also chairs the Construction Action Plan

Taskforce, said: “The construction industry was one of the first to be hit by what has turned out to be one of the worst recessions in living memory… and it is still hurting. The Government has done its best to stimulate public sector projects and keep some capacity in the sector, but we felt much more had to be done. Debbie Walsh, WMBC board member and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) head of regional policy and communications, added: “These new measures are designed to bolster the battered finances of companies who it is vital we retain if the industry is not to be left threadbare when the upturn comes. “We put our case direct to government, appearing before the Minister’s Regional Economic Taskforce and the construction action plan has developed from there. “Construction firms’ cash flow problems need to be addressed via soft loans now.” Hence, in conjunction with regional development agency

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AWM, the existing Transition Loan Fund can provide bridging finance to nurse firms through the worst of the crisis. Development gap funding is also still available for construction businesses. Last year AWM announced that it was providing a £48 million package which was expected to trigger £192 million of new, high-quality commercial and industrial development opportunities in the region by 2013, schemes that might otherwise be financially unviable in the tough economic climate. Assistance from £100,000 to £9 million is available to private sector developers – a similar push which ran in 2006 saw £34 million of public sector finance lever in approximately £160 million of private sector investment. Mr Marsh said: “AWM’s gap funding operations have been an undoubted success – this is not the time to knock it on the

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head. It is vital it continues while the sector remains in distress.” As to apprentices, it has been agreed that there should be a further drive to sell the key benefits to employers. In addition support would be offered to ‘displaced’ apprentices – many have had their dreams of a career dashed – via industry matching services. For more information on the construction action plan please visit www.wmcce.org/ construction_action_plan Businesses interested in accessing this help now can do so by calling Business Link West Midlands on 0845 113 1234. For more information on Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) Kick Start programme please visit www. homesandcommunities.co.uk/ kickstart_housing [01] A debate organised by WMCCE explored the current challenges and opportunities facing the West Midlands Construction Industry, and how the public and private sectors can stimulate recovery across the region. Panel Members from left to right: Vaughan Burnand, (Chairman, Constructing Excellence); Sir Roy McNulty (Chairman, Advantage West Midlands); Mark Wakeford, (Managing Director, Stepnell); Panel Chairman: Martin Chambers (Programme Executive, Bovis Lend Lease); Steve Vickers (General Manager, Urban Design, Birmingham City Council); David Bucknall (Chairman, Rider Levett Bucknall); John Watson (Regional Director, Federation of Master Builders)


Profile for Open Box Media & Communications

Property Advantage West Midlands Issue 21  

Whether you are in the private or public sector, an occupier or a property professional ‘Property Advantage’ is an essential read. We focu...

Property Advantage West Midlands Issue 21  

Whether you are in the private or public sector, an occupier or a property professional ‘Property Advantage’ is an essential read. We focu...

Profile for open-box