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Property Advantage West Midlands Edition www.propertyadvantage.info Issue 24

YOUR GUIDE TO REGIONAL PROPERTY, REGENERATION AND DEVELOPMENT.

property advantage City’s new library puts innermost secrets on show Glenn marks 20 years with double award win


Property Advantage West Midlands

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Contents

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Inside advantage From your Editor, Ian Halstead There was a bumper helping of good news for the beleaguered development industry in November, and all from Birmingham City Council. First, it was revealed that the authority’s Working for the Future programme had delivered close to £3m savings, by shifting backoffice staff from leased offices, in the centre and the suburbs. Future savings are estimated at £3.8m per full year, which shows what advances can be made when minds are focused squarely on saving, rather than spending. Next, the council’s regeneration director, Waheed Nazir, unveiled a new-look structure for his planning and development teams, across the city. Instead of the traditional ’silo’ approach, which has frustrated developers, agents and all members of the property community for decades, the authority has created integrated teams, covering the central core, the north-west, east and south.

Each will have a mix of regeneration, development control and planning staff, working together with transport specialists, and crucially, they will offer a single point of contact. Even better, Waheed’s colleague, David Bull, then revealed that for major strategic schemes, developers could now embed an independent consultant - at their expense - into the council’s teams at Lancaster Circus. The new structure will be finalised when flexible contracts are agreed, and Waheed admitted the system could not have been created without the commitment and support of council leader, Mike Whitby. “It’s one thing having ideas, but to drive such an innovative approach forward requires certainty, and Mike has been absolutely crucial during the whole process,” he said. Fulsome praise indeed, but if the one-stop approach does work, it certainly won’t be the last such comment. Yours, Ian Halstead Editor, Property Advantage

Front cover image. The eye-catching cover image, showing the interior of the new Library of Birmingham, comes from Dutch architects Mecanoo. Site work is going as planned, with work on the second ‘core‘ well underway at the Centenary Square site, after construction of the lift shaft and the stair core.

Contents 04 News & Deals. – New look and name for NIA. – Sheds make sense to DTZ. – GT survey sees silver lining. 10 Urban Regeneration. – Sprint idea gets ready to roll. – New mindset for MIPIM 2011. 16 Office Market. – Glenn mops up more trophies. – Hortons eye up spec scheme. – Want Space goes nationwide. 26 People & Places. – Geoff leaves with no regrets. – Swallow is in abstract mood. 30 Point of View. – Louise lets rip at localism

Property Advantage is conceived, designed & produced for you by: Open Box Media & Communications 32–35 Hall Street Birmingham B18 6BS +44 (0) 121 608 2300 www.ob-mc.co.uk Contact. Samantha Skiller sam.s@ob-mc.co.uk Stuart Walters stuart.w@ob-mc.co.uk Design. Lee Murphy lee.m@ob-mc.co.uk Editor. Ian Halstead halsteadian@aol.com The Publishers wish to emphasise that the opinions expressed in Property Advantage are not representative of Open Box and accept no responsibility for the views expressed by our contributors.

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All the latest... Dean joins Deeley.

Say goodbye to the NIA.

Tide turns for Telford. Site clearance work has finally begun for Telford’s £250 million regeneration project, Southwater, aimed at giving the oft-maligned town a genuine night-time economy, and the council a new civic centre, along with more shops, bars and offices. From masterplanning to completion of the final phase is expected to take five years.

Tasty Brew for ratepayers.

Revamping its massive property portfolio will save Birmingham City Council £19 million over the next five years, according to cabinet member, Coun. Randal Brew. Its decision to quit several leased buildings used by back office departments - including Alpha Tower and 1 Victoria Square - has already saved almost £3m this year, and Coun. Brew says the figure will rise to £3.8m in future years. The revamp has been carried out through the ambitious Working for the Future programme, a central element of the council’s much-touted Business Transformation programme, which aims to save £100m over 25 years, through consolidating its office assets, and creating more efficient workspace, such as the refurbed Lancaster Circus.

New trio for GBR-PB. GBR Phoenix Beard has underlined its ambitious growth agenda, by revealing that its threeyear business plan is almost complete. The Birmingham consultancy reports strong order books, across its operations, as David Dyas joins its asset management team, and Helen Gregg and Charles Devoy its property accounting arm.

Birmingham NIA will be in for a new look - and a new name - in 2011, after the city council brought in one of the world’s largest design practices to draw up ideas for a full-scale revamp. Broadway Malyan has already worked on several local schemes, including Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Eastside Park and Bournville College, although its client list is global. The conclusions of an initial feasibility study will be available early in the New Year, when discussions will start about the size of the budget. Its sister venue, the LG Arena, soaked up £29 million on its refurb, and expectations will be equally high for the NIA, Work could start next summer, and negotiations about naming rights are sure to be both protracted and fierce.

Coventry-based Deeley Construction has brought in a new face to spearhead its special projects division. Dean Harrow - who chairs the city’s branch of the Chartered Institute of Building - has been in the industry for 30 years, having gone from trainee to director at Maywood Construction, before 15 years at Benfield Group.


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Linford take the prize.

A house built of hemp has won a national award for Lichfield-based contractor, Linford Group. The ‘renewable house’ project was given the Innovation award at the Constructing Excellence National Awards. The house, which is at the Building Research Establishment’s innovation park, in Watford, was built using a timber frame, around which Hemcrete - a sustainable material derived from hemp - was cast.

Whitley taking off.

Cooper Crouse-Hinds, the world’s largest manufacturer of electrical products, has switched its Midlands office to the first phase of St Modwen’s Whitley Business Park, in Coventry. The deal is for 2,879 sq ft on a 10-year lease, Joint agents Savills and Shortland Horne say they are also willing to split the largest building, of 25960 sq ft into four suites, although it was designed to attract occupiers wanting HQ-style accommodation.

Sheds still make sense.

Refurbs are in vogue.

No 54 Hagley Road enjoyed a good Q4, with lettings to both Alliance Planning and Hoare Lea. GBR Phoenix Beard are joint agents with King Sturge, and the latter‘s head of offices, Jonathan Carmalt, believes continued investment by the landlord, and a flexible approach to deal-making, has been critical to securing a raft of tenants during 2010. KWB and King Sturge are marketing 36,000 sq ft of Grade A space at PRUPIM’s Middlemarch Office Park in Coventry, after a major refurb. Stonecourt is a HQ-style building, and Riverstone Court is an ’own front door‘ scheme. Berkshire Asset Management has refurbed Solihull’s Warwick House, on behalf of Chip (Five) Ltd. King Sturge is now marketing 3,846 sq ft on the fourth floor, and 2,286 sq ft on the first..

Despite sky-high occupancy costs, the UK’s logistics locations will remain good value - at least until 2012 according to DTZ’s debut analysis of the sector from a European perspective. Simon Lloyd, the agency’s Birmingham-based head of industrial and logistics, says the average European shed costs occupiers just 86.3 euros per sq metre a year, against 215e for Heathrow, and 126e for South-east England, largely due to high rents and high real estate taxes. However, he points out that the cost of locations in the Birmingham market are closer to European levels, says the cost and flexibility of labour remains ‘competitive‘, and predicts that UK occupier costs will be particularly subdued until 2012.

Next stop is Cov.

Coventry City Council’s commercial property management team is following the sector’s trend for ‘one-stop’ advice for customers and potential tenants. The unit, which is responsible for letting all the authority’s space throughout the city, has just created a new ‘welcome pack’ to ensure that clients have all the names and contacts they might need, and now has its own directdial no; 02476-832-748.


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Signs of the times.

Corporate restructuring specialist Zolfo Cooper LLP has taken a 10-year lease, on an office suite at 35 Newhall Street, after deciding to switch its leading regional team from Edmund St. The scheme is now 50% let, following an earlier letting of space, also on a 10-year lease, to another corporate recovery business, MCR. Joint agents King Sturge and KWB say splitting the floor-plates and offering flexible leases have proved critical.

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Time to go.

Off to the shops.

Jones Lang LaSalle has taken its Birminghambased shopping centre management team to seven staff, by recruiting Olivia Lee, as a senior surveyor. She will focus on client relationships including with Standard Life and Scottish Widows - and on-site retail centre management, across the UK. Louise Borthwick also joins, as a surveying executive, and will work closely with retail centres in Crewe, Banbury and Peterborough.

Stats offer some relief.

The failure rate among property companies improved dramatically during Q3, according to an assessment of business collapses by Grant Thornton. Mike Davidson, a Birminghambased manager in the advisers’ GT’s distressed property team - and with 25 years experience of the construction and property sectors - said the number of collapses was down 49% on the Q2 figure. “The huge decline in business failures may be a sign that lenders are increasingly working with borrowers to avoid administration,” he said. “The immediate panic when the economy started to slow down has calmed, but property companies still face very difficult conditions, which may worsen if house prices continue to fall.”

Birmingham City Council’s construction partnership, formed by Thomas Vale, Wates and GF Tomlinson for the last six years, is to be replaced in 2011, and the new group could cover all seven West Midland councils. The trio have shared most of the council’s £850m housing spend since 2004. The new tendering process is expected to start in February, says Steve Vickers, who heads the council’s urban design unit.


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DEVELOPMENT LAND NOW AVAILABLE AT ROTHERWAS The Rotherwas Futures Project, a £19m joint venture between Herefordshire Council and Advantage West Midlands aimed at improving the largest and the most strategically important employment area in Herefordshire, continues to make progress. The new access road has already given the estate quick and easy access to the A49, M50 and the rest of the motorway network. Construction of the new infrastructure on the south of the estate has been completed and this has released an additional 14 acres of employment land. Plots are now available for development for B1, B2 and B8 uses, from a half acre upwards. Work has also begun on the construction of a new access road for land to the north of the estate, and site clearance is continuing in preparation for development. The estate is now fully WiFi enabled and businesses can access high speed broadband, with 4Mb, 8Mb and 20Mb services available. Any company wishing to take advantage of this new faster broadband can contact Airband on 0800 0350025. Companies interested in moving to Herefordshire can contact the Economic Development Team on 01432 383337 or economicinvestment@herefordshire.gov.uk

D-Day looms for D5. Midland XV romp home.

An official rugby club featuring members of the region’s property and development community is likely to be set up, to play regular fixtures against other sides from the professional services sector, following the latest annual clash between a Midland Surveyors XV, and their counterparts from Yorkshire. The game, held at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium in Leeds, saw the visitors triumph by a mighty 38 points to 28.

Stoford wins consent.

Stoford’s retail arm has four names on a short-list of contractors, for its new retail project in West Bromwich, to build a food store for the Midlands Co-op. Sandwell MBC has granted consent for the £2.2m eco-friendly scheme, which will have 9,000 sq ft of space in a single storey building. The scheme, on a disused brownfield site, is seen by the planning authority as critical to revitalising the town’s Hill Top area..

Work should start on the latest addition to Birmingham’s skyline in Spring; Manor Park Developments’ £75m Queensgate scheme, on Suffolk Street. The 25-storey tower features a hotel with 259 rooms, and 150 apartments - plus 14 on the roof-top - to be operated by international serviced accommodation specialist, StayCity.

Basepoint aims high.

The group operating Basepoint Business Centres aims to increase its network significantly in the next four years. The ACT Foundation, a charity which helps the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged, now operates 26 centres, but believes it can expand to 40, by 2014. The Basepoint centre at Bromsgrove Technology Park Bromsgrove@basepoint. co.uk - has signed up 45 tenants since opening in March 2007.


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Lingfield lock up MoD deal.

Birmingham-based Lingfield Securities expects to begin a £25m mixed-use scheme in Catterick in 2012, after winning the contract from Defence Estates, the MoD’s property arm. Outline proposals see 120,000 sq ft of leisure and retail space, and a hotel, in the mix, for which detailed consent is due to be sought early in 2011. The scheme will come forward on an 8.5-acre site in the famous North Yorkshire garrison town.

New-look Shard underway.

Construction is underway on a £27m regeneration scheme in Birmingham’s Shard End, which will create a new urban village. Barratt West Midlands was selected as the city council’s development partner in 2007. A shopping centre, a library, 191 homes and other community facilities will be delivered via the scheme, and Barratt expects the first properties to be ready for occupation by next March.

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Mods on the march. Despite the volatile economic climate, tenants at Longbridge Technology Park are outgrowing their space. The innovation centre already houses 42 businesses, employing around 240 people, but St Modwen has now created seven new office suites, on the second floor of the adjacent Two Devon Way, to meet need for ‘growon’ space for its tenants. Another 15,000 sq ft on the first floor is also available for flexible uses.


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Birmingham Sprint goes into the blocks as Argent’s Taylor drives new strategy

The idea of ‘joined-up thinking’ was so often abused that the words are now rarely heard, but the concept was certainly back on the agenda when Birmingham’s new approach to city centre transport was unveiled. The top table at the NEC’s Hall 9 was positively crammed with speakers from both public and private sector, including Mailbox and Cube developer Alan Chatham, and the head of Drivers Jonas Deloitte’s Birmingham office, Gary Cardin.

The new transport strategy will be driven forward by a public-private partnership; including the four city centre BIDs - Broad Street, Colmore, Retail and the fledgling Southside - with the city council, Centro, and National Express West Midlands. The event was robustly chaired by Argent’s Gary Taylor emphasising that transport issues are at the core of Big City Plan 2.0 - although council leader Mike Whitby was given the honour of the keynote speech. He began with a nod to the just-approved Birmingham & Solihull LEP, before expressing his belief that, despite the challenging economic times, TIF (Tax-Incremental Finance) would deliver what his fellow speakers, and he, desired. “Point-to-point connectivity is critical for all major cities, so the £2.7 billion PFI we have signed with Amey will be very important, as will the good news I expect to hear shortly about Birmingham Airport’s runway extension,” said Coun. Whitby. “There is a perverse irony in that between general elections, the biggest issue I am asked to talk on is transport infrastructure, yet during election campaigns, transport dips out of the top ten topics.” Argent’s Taylor was present in his role as chair of the Broad Street BID, but given his intimate knowledge of the city’s transport network, including its cycling routes and running paths, there couldn’t have been a better choice. His presence also gave listeners from the development and property communities, the

clearest sign that this was to be no talking shop, but the first step in the evolution of a new, comprehensive, and deliverable, transport strategy. Should that point have been initially missed by the sleepier members of the breakfast-time audience, Gary made sure it wasn’t for long. “This is all about delivery, and our strategy will be based upon realistic objectives. We aren’t just going to hold a series of meetings, then put together a document which will sit on the shelf, and gather dust for the next 10 to 15 years,” he said. “It was clear when we included a rapid-transport proposal in our BID, that traffic congestion, and the difficulty of way-finding, were major issues, and that the city needed to build on the progress it had made towards pedestrianisation, and to improve its transport network. “My vision is of a Birmingham Sprint network, of rapid-transport vehicles, which would be the Metro’s little sister. The Metro extension and New Street will be completed by 2015, and we’re aiming to have the first Sprint route ready by the same time.”


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Urban Regeneration

Gary’s preferred route would be from Five Ways, through Aston University, then via Perry Barr and to Walsall - which clearly surprised some members of the audience, who didn’t seem entirely sure in which direction Walsall lay. Later routes would link Broad Street to New Street Gateway and Moor St Station, and the city centre to Birmingham Airport. In terms of both absolute cost and relative value, it was easy to understand why the Birmingham Sprint concept appealed.

“We’ve costed this out, and the capital spending for the first route would be just under £15m,” said Gary. “We also need to encourage more traffic on to the existing ring-road, which will require highways improvements, and a new car parking strategy for the city centre. “At the same time, we need to put in infrastructure for the next generation of electric vehicles, which are being pioneered at Birmingham University.” Centro chief executive, Geoff Inskip, revealed that the new strategy would include four transport interchanges in the city centre - which would help regenerate the area, and open up development opportunities.

He also suggested that the first Sprint route could be in place ahead of the notional 2015 target, and said that a regional Oyster-style travel card would be rolled out in the next 18 months. Geoff also stressed that although the rapid-transit network planned for Greater Birmingham was described as a concept, such routes were already operating successfully in European cities, and in the United States, notably in LA and Seattle. As if there hadn’t been sufficient good news, the council’s transportation specialist, David Bull, then announced that the Transport Select Committee was holding its November meeting in Birmingham, for the first time and at the Custard Factory, The council was given a 45-minute slot to present its latest thinking on transport issues, which will surely enhance Birmingham’s prospects of winning one of the pilot TIF schemes.

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Alan Chatham - who chairs the Retail BID - then added his support, saying that for the first time in his 20 years as a developer in the city, it seemed its transport strategy was finally coming of age. Nurton’s Rupert Young expressed surprise that the first Sprint route was heading to Walsall, but Gary Taylor had the answer. “The A34 corridor was chosen because it is a big commuter route, which is not well served at the moment, so we are able to make a sound business case, for infrastructure spending.” The various elements in the initial transport ’vision’ will now go to public consultation, allowing a more formal strategy to evolve gradually, from early 2011.


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Business Birmingham b deliver inward investm

It may have been an arranged marriage, but now Marketing Birmingham and Locate in Birmingham have finally become one, the city’s business community waits to see if the revamped organisation can deliver. Chief executive Neil Rami certainly made a sound start, outlining the strategic thinking and analysis behind the launch of Business Birmingham - the new inward investment brand - at November’s Bruntwood seminar, the latest in a series organised by the Manchester developer.

He drew an intriguing parallel between the challenges the city fathers had faced in the late 80s and early 90s, and now. “Then, the response led to the creation of the NEC, and then the ICC. Now, it is equally important that the Big City Plan dovetails into the wider economic strategy of the city,” said Neil.


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brand aims to ment to the city

His chart of Birmingham’s inward investment activity showing the United States, ahead of India and Germany - was a timely reminder that North America has long been the biggest overseas contributor to the regional economy. It was no surprise to hear that transport technology was the largest job-creating sector in the West Midlands, although Neil stressed that one of the priority sub-sectors was shared service centres, for the HR and legal professions.

A shared services network has been launched by Marketing Birmingham, after research suggested that four-in-five of those firms involved in such centres would welcome its existence, and it will be chaired by recruitment specialists, Robert Walters. It was just the kind of news an audience dominated by folk from the city’s property community wished to hear, especially given the amount of gleaming new space available in the central core, and Neil was bullish about the prospects for the wider office sector. “I don’t see large-scale relocations from Whitehall, but Birmingham has done pretty well so far, especially in the sector of regulation, and it clearly makes no sense for Whitehall to have £137 billion of real estate tied up in London,” he said. “We do have significant strengths in healthcare and digital technologies though, the government’s social media adviser is spending two days a week here, and the arrival of Microsoft’s Rare Games is also important.

“Several pharma companies are also desperate to get into the city, following the massive investment made by University Hospital Birmingham, and now it is the right time for us to start having conversations with the shared services sector.” However, Neil was also refreshingly honest about the challenges which Business Birmingham faced, in terms of both regional rivals - Manchester most obviously - and the perceptions held about the city and its residents. “Our research shows very clearly that there are still negative perceptions about Birmingham, and so we are putting together a high-profile media campaign, based upon positive propositions about the city, which will be known as the Birmingham Brand,” he said. Advertisements will be placed at high-profile locations, including Euston, Schipol Airport and Manchester Piccadilly, using a series of slogans. Birmingham’s office sector, for example, will be promoted as ’Legroom Unlimited’, emphasising not simply the amount of Grade A space on offer, but also the city’s parks and green spaces. Such a pro-active approach - and one which is long overdue - surely reflects what Professor Michael Parkinson said three years ago, when his visioning study for Big City Plan 1.0

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suggested that Brummies should adopt something of the Scouse swagger to promote their city. It was then good to hear that Marketing Birmingham would be focusing on thought leadership at the 2011 MIPIM, rather than treating the event essentially as a social occasion, to be littered with the occasional fact. In the market conditions which have prevailed since the onset of recession, it isn’t easy to cheer office agents up - especially at 8am - so it was equally good to see how well the new strategies were being received After the event, Neil explained how the Business Birmingham initiative will be driven forward. “We need to be higher up the chain, and to be making contacts at a high level, so will need the support of government, and the UN Trade & Investment network. We want the city to have a major brand, but under the UK banner,” he said. “At MIPIM, we need to talk about national, and international, issues from a Birmingham, perspective. We can’t just reel off information about the number of speculative schemes which are coming forward any more, so we have to focus on such issues as transport infrastructure. “The new relationship with Abu Dhabi is working well, we’ve had their people here for the last 14 or 15 months, so again, we need to reach a wider audience with news of what is happening in Birmingham. This month, for example, all UKTI’s overseas reps will be here. “We also need to put the city’s property offer into a wider context, to include such elements as the healthcare sector, and our science parks. We do have a good story to tell, but it needs to reach the right people, and we must also constantly remind the private sector what we are doing.” Reaching audiences via both online and offline means will be of critical importance, and the Marketing Birmingham site is already reflecting the new agenda. The only concern is that a relatively small team has been tasked with achieving far more than previously, and with a reduced budget, so a precisely targeted approach will be vital. However, Neil makes a confident and persuasive ambassador for the city, and the property and business communities are certainly buying into the new approach, so the signs are all set fair.


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Caparo come up trumps for WSP Wolverhampton Science Park (WSP) has climaxed a solid second-half to 2010, as one of its tenants took the ‘open collaboration’ prize, at the Lord Stafford Awards.

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The Caparo Innovation Centre, which offers advice to inventors about general business skills, and specialist support on engineering, design and marketing issues, has been at the city centre location for almost eight years. WSP is run as a jv between the University of Wolverhampton and the city council, and Caparo’s award recognised the success of its collaboration with the academic body - which the Lord Stafford Awards were created to reflect. The park’s operations director, Andrew Gilson, was naturally delighted, and admitted that Q3 and Q4 had been much better than expected. “Very few tenants left or downsized, and typically because the public sector had either funded them directly, or provided most of their revenue stream,” he said.

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“However, many of our software-oriented tenants are reporting record results and expanding their accommodation. We’ve also recently enhanced our services package for tenants by developing closer links with the university and its new business solutions centre. “We’ve even seen bookings increase for our conference space, and meeting rooms, and it’s all helped to underpinned our optimism for 2011.”


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Office scheme awards are perfect presents as Glenn celebrates his 20th anniversary

Birmingham’s best-known architect, Glenn Howells, talks to Ian Halstead about his life, his times... and a museum in Verona. The most impressive sight in Glenn Howells’ Bradford Street offices isn’t one of the many lovingly crafted urban designs for which his practice is noted, or even models of grand and sweeping schemes as-yet-unborn. It’s the trophy wall, which positively creaks under the burden of sufficient accolades and awards, to make even Sir Alex Ferguson’s eyes water. October saw 11 Brindleyplace judged the UK’s top commercial workplace, whilst in November, Building Design crowned Glenn as its

office architect of 2010, for a portfolio including Argent’s building, and other schemes in Manchester and Coventry. The BD judges offered such praise as ‘admirably restrained in expression‘, ’a powerful sense of urban decorum’ and ‘a carefully gauged response to a more peripheral location’, then complimented Glenn on his serious pursuit of sustainability, via BREEAM ‘excellent‘ designs. The awards were especially welcome; partly as Glenn isn’t always associated with office schemes, but also because

11 Brindleyplace was almost anything but. “It was a year after I first met Gary Taylor. He was at Argent, in 1995, and asked me to sketch ideas for the corner plot at Brindleyplace,” recalls Glenn. “Urban living was just taking off, so I suggested apartments. Then the market changed, and we thought a hotel would sit well. Later still, we wondered if mixeduse would work, and finally, the time was right for offices.” Hearing of the scheme’s gestation, it’s easy to see why architecture might attract

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someone who enjoyed doodling and drawing, especially when given a blank canvas. Born on the Black Country’s rural fringes, Glenn was initiated to the world of construction by his dad, who trained as a carpenter, before becoming a builder. “I was an only child, and every summer holiday, dad would encourage me to make something, which could be a submarine, a tree-house, or pretty much anything,” says Glenn. “He’d show me how to do things, then leave me to get on, so I grew up being used to being outside, and working on my own. When I’d watched him do A4 drawings a few times, it

was natural to copy him. All the skills I later used were being dripfed into me. ”I went to Brierley Hill Grammar School, but hated it. I was really into music, and played in bands until I was 17. Then one day, I looked around the group. Everyone else was 37, one had just undergone a vasectomy, and I realised I needed a proper career.” One beckoned … in the unlikely form of an ad in the New Musical Express, for the Plymouth School of Architecture & Design, and Glenn was hooked. “I found everything so exciting. I suddenly had access to a world of ideas, and what

seemed unlimited time to explore them. I had been accepted at Camberley to study painting, but changed my mind when I discovered architecture,” he recalls. After completing his degree, Glenn worked in Cornwall and London, whilst continuing his studies, but decided to set up on his own in 1990, encouraged by Robin Spence, of Spence & Webster, who had mentored him through his formative years. “He was a great friend, and also an ally,” says Glenn. “He always encouraged me to enter competitions, and when I felt I had out-grown the South-West, he was extremely supportive.” The catalyst for the fledgling practice’s survival was a subsequent meeting, with Bennie Gray, then on the cusp of his Custard Factory project. “It was very much ’design and build’ work, and Digbeth was a really interesting area, with metalworking going on, just round the corner. It was good fun, and also like working for a construction company,” admits Glen.

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The tippping point was a £2m contract to design an arts centre in Hereford - The Courtyard. Its artistic director, Jonathan Stone, wanted a determinedly modern building, but one which could also sit well with the town’s historic streetscapes, and he recognised a kindred spirit. The work provided security of income, and once Glenn’s reputation was established in the world of arts, he was able to diversify into other sectors, notably through Urban Splash’s first new-build project, the Timber Wharf resi scheme, in Manchester’s up-and-coming Castlefield district. Glenn remains in touch with almost all his friends, colleagues and clients from his early days, and his long-term relationship with Argent’s Gary Taylor is typical. A mate from his schooldays has just exhibited at the Bradford Street offices. “This is a very personal business, and probably 90% of our work comes from people we already know,” he says. “There is also a huge responsibility. If you get your building wrong, it could destroy someone’s livelihood, or their business.”


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Glenn’s innovative design for the new M5 service station

However, although there is impressive client continuity, the practice hasn’t sought to evolve its own distinctive brand. “I am very nervous about the word ’style’, as to me it sounds as if all your schemes have a visual hallmark. I like to begin by understanding what we might do with a place,” says Glen. “Then, you start from first principles of design, and begin looking at the options in terms of raw materials and structure. I still prefer bespoke solutions, rather than ’off the shelf’ stuff, as if you are using a stylistic repertoire.” Although Glenn’s work is very much of the moment, his influences are certainly not. “I really like medieval cathedrals, and some Victorian buildings, for the same reason, because you can see that craftsmen have been involved in the design process. Brunel is one of my heroes, and I’m still impressed by what he achieved. “Everyone wants to design great buildings, but they can only happen if you have a great team of people around you - modelmakers, landscape architects, graphic designers, and the rest and if you give them the freedom they need to flourish. “I have to admit, when you see a really great building, you get a feeling of nausea because it’s not one of yours, and that happens on a regular basis. However, there are also times when you go somewhere just to see a famous building, and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. ”I still think Norman Foster has an amazing catalogue of work, especially from the early 1980s, and Richard Rogers has also created some tremendous stuff. At the international level, David Chipperfield always catches my eye.”

Intriguingly though, given his ultra-modernist portfolio, Glenn’s favourite building on the planet is the Castelvecchio museum in Verona, by the late Italian architect, Carlo Scarpa. “I didn’t realise it existed, until I came across it on a visit to Italy, but it is just the most wonderful place, which was converted from a 14th century castle.” To the future, Glenn looks forward to restoring some of Birmingham’s ‘fine-grain’ architecture which was destroyed more effectively than the Luftwaffe could, by Herbert Manzoni; Birmingham’s city engineer and chief surveyor for almost three brutal decades. “For me, the cities which do well, for GDP growth, education, employment and all other crucial factors, they have a fine grain, whether it is Copenhagen or Lyon,” he says. “I am here in Birmingham because there is so much more to do. We look around Digbeth, and see the remnants of the 1960s, when everything was about mega-structures and roads. “Manzoni came in with a large chisel, and destroyed what had taken generations to build, and I want to put back some of those fine-grain connections. Some things happening here have been fantastic, but now we need to do more, and the Big City Plan - which is a very pragmatic document - will really help.”


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11 Brindleyplace

In the short-term though, the biggest item on Glenn’s agenda is the new ‘eco-service station‘, to be built on the M5, between junctions 11a and 12. “It’s the first motorway station to be consented, without going to appeal, and we’ve been working with the developer, Westmorland Ltd, and Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, to create a new business model,” says Glenn. “We see it as somewhere people can be rejuvenated, rather than simply buy petrol and drive off. There will be no franchises, and all the food will be locally produced. Motorway stations have become a very tired experience, but this will be very different. “It’s on a 70-acre site, but the design has been woven into the landscape because one of our aims is to turn the area, which has been quite intensively farmed, back into a traditional field pattern.” Glenn sparkles with child-like enthusiasm, as he muses happily about the scheme, which is due to start on site next Spring. From wooden submarines in the back garden to motorway service stations and awardwinning buildings has been a long journey, but it suddenly seems like yesterday.


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Speculative office schemes are rarer than emu eggs in the present economic climate, so it’s good to hear that one of Birmingham’s best-known developers is about to take the plunge. Hortons’ Estate is one of the region’s few long-term property companies still controlled by its founding family, and the certainty such ownership provides means it‘s able to take the long view. Now, despite the wider uncertainty, Hortons is sufficiently confident to be dusting off plans for a courtyard-style office project, at Evesham’s Vale Park. Property director Richard Norgrove, right, who is about to mark his first year on the group’s board, says the original consent - received before recession began to bite - was for eight of the ’own door’ units which proved so popular elsewhere, especially with the professional services sector. “We wouldn’t do all the space at once, but we’ll probably do three or four in the first phase, because we do see pent-up demand in the

Evesham area,” he says. “The land is just sitting there doing nothing, and all being well, we’ll look to start bringing the space forward on a speculative basis next year. “We did twelve units on our last courtyard scheme - a jv with Business Homes, on Birmingham Business Park - and they all sold on a freehold basis, and very quickly. Clearly the market has moved since then, but we think such space will still be popular.” Hortons has several chunks of new, and refurbished, office space in the city centre; notably Innovation Square, Latham House, Cathedral Court, White House, and 21 Bennetts Hill. However, a central element of its strategy has also been to acquire a portfolio of properties across the region; including Coventry, Kettering, Wolverhampton, Solihull, Willenhall and Nottingham. “There’s a lot of stock available in the city centre, so we’re still looking more at opportunities for out-of-town office space,” says Richard. “Our philosophy has always

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Spec space for Hortons i


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e on the calendar in the New Year

been to look for locations where we see low supply, so we can bring forward a scheme and mop up the demand we have identified. Evesham is our kind of place, which is why we acquired the land, and gained the consent, before the market changed. ”We’re also looking elsewhere, but still typically within 50 miles of Birmingham, because we think that’s the right sort of distance which makes it easy to manage a portfolio.” Hortons is also attempting to increase its land bank, but Richard admits finding potential sites is proving easier than acquisition.

“Clearly, land has to be available at the right price, as for all developers, but vendors still have very high aspirations about prices, and the gap between what we consider fair, and the perception of the land-owners hasn’t narrowed, despite the recession,” he says. “Banks also aren’t releasing as much stock on to the market as many expected, which is making supply tight in some locations. We’re finding that they are tending to retain distressed assets, because they believe they can achieve higher prices, when the market begins to turn upward. “With base rate so low, it’s easy to cover the interest charges, so banks are not taking land back from developers, but trying to manage the asset.” Richard also sees the gap between prime and secondary space widening, as institutions and other investors cherry-pick the best assets from the top of the market. “The market for secondary space is very challenging, because banks won‘t lend on it, and property companies don‘t have the capital to buy it outright,” he admits. “The refurb market is stagnating, as a result, so it’ll be interesting to see the market’s reaction, when the recovery gets properly underway.”


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Sustainability

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Office Market

Meanwhile, a £2m refurb has been completed at Birmingham’s Burlington Hotel, which is now a four-star member of the Macdonald chain, but was for well over a century, the city’s most famous ‘railway hotel’, the Midland.

23 The original building was the first acquired by Isaac Horton, a Lichfield farmer who made so much money from his pigs, and his butchers’ shops, that he decided to invest in the city centre. In the nine years between 1871 and his death, Horton also acquired the Grand Hotel, on Colmore Row, and laid the foundations for the property empire which still bears his family’s name. Hortons’ chief executive, Tony Green, described the refurb as a blend of contemporary and traditional styles. “We’ve restored historic features in the bedrooms; the ceiling roses, the ornate coving, and the original fireplaces, created three new executive suites on the fifth floor, and upgraded the coffee lounge, the reception area, and the Berlioz bar,” he said. “We have a track record of constant investment in our portfolio, to meet the demands of our occupiers, and were delighted to have worked closely with Macdonald Hotels on this project.” Tony - pictured with Macdonald’s regional managing director, Stephanie Hocking - said the refurbishment had been jointly funded by Hortons and the hotel operator.


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Office Market

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WantSpace - GotSpac just can’t stop growing Mike Gillespie and his colleagues at Solihull-based WantSpace-GotSpace are expecting a Christmas present they couldn’t even have dreamed of a year ago. Their innovative webbased business model, offering commercial property listings, has proved so successful since its 2009 launch, that the 10-strong team is on course to have 30,000 buildings on its site by the end of December.

The venture has also registered close to 300 clients, and stretched its geographic spread from its West Midlands heartland to every English region, even capturing 1,000 buildings in London. “Business has been - and still is - growing exponentially,” says Mike. “By December 2011, we aim to be the largest website in our sector, effectively becoming the equivalent of Rightmove in the commercial property market.” The site offers both free and premium listings to customers; the latter are fully interactive, and have their own Google rankings.

“Our philosophy is that potential occupiers (Want Spacers) should be able to come into the site, and get the information that they need, as fast and as efficiently as possible, without hindrance,” says Mike. A web-based service, where contact can be made by e-mail, is clearly an idea of its time, and the firm’s pace of growth suggests it appeals to timeconscious people, searching for space, or for tenants.

However, WS-GS is also finding favour with a fastgrowing number of agents including CB Richard Ellis, GBR Phoenix Beard and Gerald Eve - who regard it as an addition to their existing marketing and sales techniques, rather than as a competing brand. “Agents like us because we bring more potential tenants forward. It’s also a very easy service to use, and to update,“ says Mike.


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ce g “I think its popularity is down to the fact that although agents and property people are very good at sending information to each other, they are - in general - less good at getting that information across to the wider business community, and the public.” Like many classic business models, the concept arose almost by chance. “We’d all been in commercial property for some

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Office Market

time, and were talking one day, wondering how a propertyowner would let (for example) a small back office in Shirley High Street,” recalls Mike. “The rent might only be £500 a month, so you wouldn’t want to pay an agent £1,000. It seemed if we could devise a low-cost business model, that we could help people with relatively small amounts of business space find tenants, and also support the work of agents. “We took our ideas to a marketing agency, they came up with the branding, and we put together a nice simple message, to appeal to people who had space, and those who wanted it.” After a deliberately ‘soft’ launch, the service proved so swiftly successful that Mike was able to give up his previous Gillespie & Co business, and begin to recruit additional sales staff. Is it a business model which thrives purely in recession though? “I don’t think so,“ says Mike. “I believe what we have to offer will still be as valid, when the market picks up. You will always have SMEs and individuals

looking for offices, who don’t have the time or money to go through a traditional agency approach, and want a webbased offer. ”The day of the internet agency is here, and once the genie is out of the bottle, there is no putting it back. The biggest threat to agents’ fees isn’t us, but the office brokerage sites. ”Those guys are on commission, and they will take fees from agents, just for providing an instruction. That‘s not our approach, because we want to be part of the agents‘ marketing strategy.

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”If we do well, the agents do well, and if the space is let, everyone is happy. Whenever the market ticks up, I’m confident that we will still be here, and still growing.”


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People & Places

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Independence Day looms for Geoff after life devoted to the DTZ cause Ian Halstead talks to DTZ’’s regional chairman, Geoff Thomas, who is stepping down after 38 years with the firm.


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Loyalty and long-term commitment aren’t concepts often associated with the fastmoving world of property development, but they have underpinned Geoff’s working life, since he joined Chesshire Gibson & Co’s Birmingham office in 1972. The 200-year-old firm may have subsequently morphed through a series of mergers, acquisitions and re-brands into the global consultancy DTZ, but the Birmingham University graduate wasn’t for changing, once he‘d found the right place to be. After 15 years as a partner, Geoff was appointed regional chairman for the Midlands, in 1997, and his brief extended to cover the south-west, eight years ago. His career highlights include advising on Birmingham’s record pre-let - Wragge & Co’s signing at Two Snow Hill - and on the city’s largest development, New Street Gateway, following work on such high-profile schemes as Calthorpe House, the Wesleyan, and Victoria Square House. Geoff has clearly enjoyed his time with DTZ immensely, so it’s a surprise to discover that he only chanced upon a career in property by accident. His dad emigrated to South Africa, and having married a local girl, then moved to Southern Rhodesia - “like Surrey in the sun, if you were white” recalls Geoff - where a minority government had announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. The country’s historic ties with England brought the teenager to Birmingham University, which was linked to Rhodesia’s top medical college, in 1968. “I’d done maths, physics and chemistry at A-level, but it didn’t take me long to realise I didn’t want to be a physician, and I decided to go into commerce after graduating,” he recalls. Accountancy appealed as a steady job, but after a year as an articled clerk with a local practice, the appeal of sitting at a desk each day had faded. “It was 1972, people who worked in the property business seemed to be doing well, and they also got out of the office a lot,” says Geoff.

“In those days there were no national firms, just London firms and provincial ones. Chesshire Gibson was one of the big three in Birmingham, and I joined them.” As Geoff’s career progressed, so did the scale of his employer’s Birmingham’s operations. DTZ’s Colmore Square office now houses 250 staff, and it has become one of the world‘s leading brands in property consultancy. Geoff expects further consolidation in the sector, but isn’t convinced that other hookups like Deloitte’s acquisition of Drivers Jonas lie ahead. “I’m not sure that model will be one that others will follow,” he says. “There’s certainly potential for conflicts of interest, and I also find it difficult to see how you add value to an accountancy firm, by acquiring a property business.” Less controversial is Geoff’s selection of his favourite building in Birmingham. Perhaps taking loyalty just a shade too far, he chooses No. One Colmore Square. “It is a very good building, at the operational level, and was also an interesting project,” he says. “We had to acquire roads and graveyards, and it was a complex project which, for various reasons, took a decade to complete. I certainly got the most satisfaction from this building.” Temple Court is another of Geoff‘s favourites - “it was almost a rebuild, than a refurb“ - but he rates the former Britannic Assurance HQ at Wythall, the most dramatic building he has advised on. “It really was palatial, and had everything. It even had an excellent cricket pitch, which many people feel is as good as Edgbaston,” he says. “It was of a type that we will never see again, but it was very exciting to do, because it was also one of the first ‘green’ buildings.“ However, identifying Geoff’s least favourite chunk of urban architecture requires less reflection. “There were some very unattractive offices built in the 60s, and you can see a number of them along Broad Street, and there were also some very bland buildings constructed during the 90s,” he says. “The ugliest building in the city though has to be the old NatWest Tower though. I will be absolutely delighted when it finally comes down.” Geoff’s lifelong preference is for architecture with detail, rather than those ghastly towers where developers use cladding to shave a little from their build costs.

People & Places

“Snow Hill is very nice, it has a lot of detail, and I love what has been done with Moor Street Station, but it is tricky to deal with Birmingham’s Victorian buildings, such as the Grand Hotel,” he admits. “Their designs are not usually flexible, they are often very small, and it’s very difficult to convert them into modern and efficient space, so it becomes a tricky balance between regeneration and conservation.” Geoff likes the look of the new Library of Birmingham, but is concerned about how the fabric of the innovative design will be preserved. “I think it will be a very difficult building to maintain, and to keep it looking good, In this country, we have a very poor track record of looking after our public buildings, and there is a risk that the library could become neglected. “However, I do hope the design comes off, because Birmingham still lacks a contemporary landmark which could make the city instantly recognisable, and the library could become that symbol.” Although Geoff enjoys looking to Birmingham’s future, he has spent significant chunks of his career advising the landed clients who represent its past; including Calthorpe Estate, the Howard-Vyse family and Colmore Estate. “I’ve worked with Calthorpe very closely, on their estate, and their commercial portfolio, and it’s been a great job,” he says. “I’ve never liked to take the short-term view, but when you are working with an estate that has a 300-year land-holding, it is particularly special, because they can take a generational perspective.”

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Like the Calthorpes, fhe Colmore family gradually built up their estate over the centuries, through marriage, patronage and astute property deals. “They owned a farm that ran from what is now Colmore Row, to Snow Hill, then to the flyover, and as Birmingham grew, they sold off chunks of land,” says Geoff. “The reason many people haven’t heard of them is that their tax planning for much of the 20th century was pretty poor, and they had to sell many of their freeholds and ground leases. “They still own the land where the Hotel du Vin is, the old KMPG building, and other sites though, but they are very low profile, partly because the current family members live in Argentina, Ireland and South Africa. “Again, you don’t hear much of the Howard-Vyse family, but they still own quite large chinks of Broad Street, around the Alex, and at the back of New St Station. “A lot of Birmingham’s great landed families began having problems holding on to their estates after World War One, because their sons died very early, and they were forced to make disposals to settle death duties and taxes.” Loyalty and long-term commitment are recurring themes in Geoff’s conversation, so it’s to be expected that he is looking forward to devoting more time in his retirement, to the Foundation of King Edward VI. “Their eight schools have quite a substantial endowment fund, and I’ve worked with their people on a range of investments. I enjoy the work, and I’ll be putting more time in now.” He’ll also have more time for more relaxing pastimes, notably golf and clay pigeon shooting, and it seems entirely appropriate that both require a steady hand, and sound judgement.


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Don’t rule out Abstract Land counsels Knight Frank head PRUPIM’s decision to sell its landmark office park in Solihull will be a benchmark for the strength of the region’s market, according to Knight Frank’s Birmingham head of office, Mark Swallow. The 57-acre site, for many years home to the industrial giant Lucas, was acquired in 2007, from Opus Land, as The Green. With 183,000 sq ft of Grade A space already built, and permission for another 350,000 sq ft, it was conceived as the kind of grand landscaped environment, which would attract major corporates wanting HQ-style buildings. However, whether such clients exist in sufficient numbers at the moment is moot, and Mark is certainly intrigued to see who might come forward, to take the asset from the Pru’s real estate arm. Although he’s never been accused of being a pessimist, the Knight Frank observer also remains cautious about prospects for the city’s office market. “There is activity, but almost entirely at the bottom end, for 5,000 sq ft to 10,000 sq ft of space, and although there are bigger inquiries out there, there aren’t many,” he says. “It‘s still very much a two-tier market. You could get refurbed space for the low to mid £20s, but it’s hard to say what new Grade A might go for, because there haven’t been enough transactions to judge.

“Most people are trying to think laterally, and looking to get their assets back into shape, to be ready when the market picks up. Some are trying to persuade tenants to sign longer leases, in return for improving their space, but it’s still a buyer’s market. ”It’s also not entirely clear where demand will come from. The market here has always been driven by lawyers and accountants, who take on new space as they expand, but the professional services sector is shrinking. “People are saying it’s great to see manufacturers like JLR doing well, and it is, but they aren’t going to suddenly take large chunks of office space in Birmingham.” However, Mark recovers his natural ebullience when asked to identify which developers might make their mark in the coming months. “Nurton Development is an obvious one, since they hooked up with Moorfield, and of course there have been rumours for at least a couple of months that they will buy Victoria Square House.”

With a likely price-tag around £40 million, seeing the 70,000 sq ft landmark building change hands would certainly end the year on a high note. Mark is equally bullish about the Manchester-based developer and investor, Bruntwood, which gave the McLaren Building an impressive facelift, and completed its third acquisition in the city, this autumn, by taking on the 20-storey Kennedy Tower, on Snow Hill Plaza. “We’ve worked with them a lot, up in Manchester, and would certainly expect to be one of their agents on that building, when they’ve decided what they want to do with it,” says Mark, confidently.

“They’re good people, they have the funds, and they have a business model which works very well, whether in Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham.” The final name on his list of ones to watch is Mark Glatman’s Abstract Land, once among the biggest brands in the regional office market. “I wouldn’t rule them out,” says Mark. “They’re shrewd operators, and no-one should be writing them off just yet.”


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Point of View

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Is a brave new world ahead or is it Armageddon instead?

By Louise Brooke-Smith MD of planning and development consultants CSJ Brooke-Smith. Will the Government’s game of Russian Roulette with the planning system help the development industry, or simply mean that the uncertainty which has prevailed since the summer continues to create construction headaches and commercial dilemmas? It doesn’t help that the recent ‘Cala’ decision has now questioned the legality of Eric Pickles’ call to ditch Regional Spatial Strategies. Nor that the government immediately counter-claimed that the decision doesn’t really matter as the imminent localism legislation will remove RSS anyway. Whether that is the case or not, illegal action by any Secretary of State cannot instill confidence in the industry. Some suggest, while we await confirmation of the Localism Bill, the next few months will see a plethora of development schemes pushed through the planning system. Other developers have already accepted that the ‘Big Society’ will herald a Brave New World for planning and are pleased that the laborious local development framework system, and box-ticking development control process which sadly evolved over the past few years is on the way out. But will a new ‘local accountability’ approach to planning really be a better way forward, or end the system as we have known it. It’s not asking too much to aspire to a planning system that balances the demands of a community’s needs to live, work

and play, with the environmental impact of development along with a modest commercial return, to at least cover the cost of construction. However, the Localism Bill due this month - will introduce a shift towards local decisionmaking. At best, this may be productive democracy with communities taking the lead in what should be built in their street. At worst it could be NIMBYism, with a ‘patchwork’ of planning decisions where the articulate middle classes have their way, and damn the rest of the country. I appreciate that this is a cynical view and we should let new political ideology take hold, but it would be good to have a fall-back position, otherwise we are rapidly heading for a massive problem, particularly when it comes to housing. The Cala decision and the resultant uncertainty has huge implications for a beleaguered housing industry which, in addition to the major cuts to funding and social benefits, is facing crisis point. New building has fallen to levels not seen for more than180 years. Housing Benefit is being curtailed and the promise made in the Comprehensive Spending Review for 150,000 new social homes goes nowhere near to address the million family-strong waiting list. To address growing concerns, Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister is currently inviting comments on his New Homes Bonus scheme.

Will it be the panacea to get the private sector moving again? Few think that a loan of a prorata fund will be enough of an incentive and the fear is that it won’t be enough to kick-start the housing industry. There needs to be far stronger encouragement to address what is fast becoming a national scandal in terms of housing provision. Perhaps the ‘Community Right to Build’ will do the trick? It is expected to be explained in full in the Localism Bill and will allow communities wishing to encourage development, to bypass the usual planning application hoops if 75% of the electorate are in favour. But will this actually happen or will NIMBY-ism creep in? Yes people need homes, but ‘not on the green field behind my house thank you’.

The current state of play is one of confusion. Of course, investment in housing would have suffered regardless of the election result but the coalition approach has been remarkably bullish. While Ministers may not like the idea of power in the regions, until we have coherent planning policy, particularly for housing, and not one so prone to vagaries of NIMBY-ism, uncertainty will continue. The development industry will be like a boxer with one hand tied behind its back. It wants to get on and fight, but simply can’t move forward and deliver what communities clearly need. Localism and ‘people power’ may sound like the government’s equivalent to glasnost and perestroika but it might end up being a game of Russian Roulette, because the development industry - and specifically housing development - will simply die if permissions don’t materialise sooner rather than later. So roll out the Localism Bill but please Mr Pickles, no more shooting from the hip….with or without legal bullets. Give our development industry some confidence that you know what you are doing, and are willing to take the credit, or the blame, regardless.


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Coventry & Warwicks

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Profile for Open Box Media & Communications

Property Advantage West Midlands Issue 24  

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 24  

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

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