Property

Why are we so against change?

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It seems that whatever we try to do in this country to ‘move forward’ we always come up against people who are ‘anti’. At the larger end of the scale it might be HS2 or wind farms off the coast, at the local level it could be new development – and this is the drive behind this blog….

Screen-Shot-2014-05-31-at-19.06.44-1024x457I live in West Bridgford, it is a very pleasant suburb of Nottingham and has been voted (as part of Rushcliffe) as one of the more desirable places to live in the UK – all good news so far. It also has a very busy and successful retail area based around Central Avenue. This area has seen significant changes in the last few years, a number of restaurants and bars have opened and it is now somewhere that attracts out of area dinners and drinkers. This is positive in my view as it brings money into the town.

There is however an element of the local (and not so local?) population who are quite vocal about not wanting change, this manifested itself most vocally a few years ago when M&S were looking to open in the town. Much was said against them, but they got planning and are now a well used and dare I say it popular addition (even from those anti initially?) to the town.

Moving forward a few years to today we have the issue of the two new retail units behind the Halifax on Central Avenue – a piece of almost invisible land which added nothing to the area, but was next to the croquet green (as the area of grass between Central Avenue and the car-park is known). The planning application for this has just been approved (quite rightly in my view). But it has caused huge bad feeling and comment – particularly from those who love the farmers market that uses the croquet lawn a couple of times a month.

All I would say to those opposed to the development is think long term, the market could move on and is in real terms a minor addition to the life of the town centre. Traders who take a formal lease on a shop unit are committing long term to the town and have a vested interest in its success. Yes, we potentially have an issue over tenant mix in the town (as most towns do) with too many charity shops and numerous coffee shops and the like. But who causes the demand for these operators? The market as a whole, in effect those who are against the development in the first place!

Perhaps it is time for the country as a whole to have a good hard look at itself and accept that we cause the changes in the market – so we can’t (and shouldn’t) complain when development occurs, especially when it is small and local as in the case of this one. Time to deal with our ‘not in my back yard’ issues……

The market is more active….

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The perception this year has been that we are all much busier in the commercial property world – this is a relative concept, things are still tough, but the ‘Property Transaction Statistics’ from the HMRC that I came across last week do appear to support that there has been a slight increase in transaction numbers across the UK property market as a whole during the last 12 months.

This first chart indicates activity over the last 8 years in the residential and commercial property market. It shows a definite upturn this year.

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The second chart shows just the commercial market – a much less obvious increase in growth – but still apparent.

Untitled2Hopefully this will show continued growth in 2014…..

A building worth listing – and it’s from the 80’s

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Listing a building can be a nightmare for property owners and occupiers alike – but some buildings are so special that they need to be protected for future generations to experience. Whether they like what they see is irrelevant in my view – architecture is a personal thing. But what I do know is that completely demolishing our history (as they did in Nottingham when the Broad Marsh Centre was built in the 1970’s) is not a good thing.

So earlier this year when I saw that an industrial distribution building had been Grade II* listed I was really pleased….

Renault website

I have to admit a love of this building, it was built in the early 1980’s in Swindon a town close to my family home in Wiltshire, so I have known it from its construction. It also featured briefly as a backdrop in a Bond movie (A view to a Kill), which gives you an idea of just how ‘out there’ it was when it was built. English Heritage say in their listing that it is ‘one of the very finest examples of a hi-tech building’.

The architect was Lord Foster, a man who has gone on to design some of the most iconic buildings in the World today – including the Gherkin, the Millennium Bridge and the rebuilding of Berlin’s Reichstag.

Built originally for Renault as their UK parts centre the 25,000 sq m building has had a chequered history since then – but it is now protected for the future which makes me very happy, it is just a shame that we have so few iconic commercial buildings in this country worth listing…..

The EPC – now over 5 years old…..

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Local-EPC-graph-3D-chart-300x300The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been with us now in one form or another for over 5 years. Initially introduced to the residential market and then into the commercial property market it is fair to say they have not been universally popular! But how are they now viewed, and how much impact (if any) have they had on the market?

My personal involvement relates purely to the non domestic market – which arguably has been most resistant to their adoption. Within the residential market EPC’s are now accepted by purchasers and vendors alike, they actually appear to like the information it provides them with. Whether or not it actually affects their decision process is not clear – the market may not be that intelligent yet.

In the commercial property market I think it is fair to say that owners and purchasers have all come to accept that the EPC is now a legal requirement, the number of transactions that occur now without one appears to have dropped to almost zero, and the last-minute EPC ‘just before exchange’ is getting far less common.

However to date there are only 472,962 non domestic properties registered on the Landmark Database for England and Wales as having EPC’s – somewhat short of the total domestic registrations of 10,665,662! And a long way short of the England and Wales total property stock which is in the region of 25 Million homes and 1.8 Million commercial properties (VOA data).

What hasn’t changed sadly (from the point of view of an assessor) is the level of fees  – these still don’t reflect the work involved in a non domestic assessment – and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. But lets hope activity will continue to rise.

So we still have a long way to go on adoption, but as can be seen from the residential statistics much is down to the market activity – so with more activity in the commercial market adoption should increase. Time will tell if the EPC actually sees its 10th anniversary, what is clear is that the UK is slowly building a database of energy information – what it does with it is another matter.

Time for a new look….

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This year has been rather busy at work and at home, consequently something had to give, and it was my blog….

Well I am intending to address that and fully intend to ‘get back on the blogging wagon’ for 2014 – and as a first step I think it’s time for a redesign to something more contemporary…..

Don’t meddle with planning!

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I have blogged previously about my home town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire and the two supermarkets that are trying to open in the town – Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. The planning issues have caused huge debate in the town and the local MP has been very vocal – possibly not with the towns best interests in mind…..

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leave well alone please Eric!

The applications were both delayed from earlier in the year to allow further discussion (as the Government is keen to promote) and were decided in June by the planning committee – and the decision went as recommended by the planning officer – a refusal for Sainsbury’s (situated too far away from the town) and consent for the Waitrose on the site behind the old silk mill. In my opinion the correct decision – the Waitrose site is close enough to the town to work with it rather than against it.

So in an ideal world the planning officers decision (he is paid to advise after all) would stand. But not if you are the local MP it appears. He asked the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to call the decision in. This has caused further uncertainty in the town – exactly what it doesn’t need at the moment. After all, who would open a new business in a town with this level of uncertainty hanging over it?

I wrote this blog some while ago and didn’t get round to publishing it, I considered its subject was probably a ‘one off’ and perhaps I was getting worked up over nothing! But this week a very similar situation has occurred here in Nottingham – an MP asking for a decision to be called in again by Eric Pickles, despite all due process having been followed.

In my mind this just can’t be right, holding back land in this way delays both house building (which the Government are demanding) and the economy as a whole. It also appears to be totally at odds with what the Government claim to be trying to achieve with their ‘localism’ program.

Perhaps it’s time to think about local issues first and politics second?

A Parisian discovery…

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20130409-195703.jpgI am in Paris for a few days, a city that I like to think I have a reasonable feel for, but today proved that you can always discover something new, even in a city you think you know…

New York is well known for its HighLine or ‘park in the sky’ – I am looking forward to seeing it in the summer when we are there as a family as I have heard so many positive things about it. However, today I discovered Paris’s own HighLine – la promenade plantee. This is a similar thing – a former railway line and viaduct in a city environment that has been formed into an amazing linear park. In addition the arches below have also been refurbished and created into workshops and retail space for artists and artisans. This in fact was the original High Line, built sixteen years before the New York model, and apparently it served as inspiration to it’s American counterpart.

The promenade stretches for almost 5 kilometers across the 12th arrondissement following the path of the retired ligne de Vincennes railway track from Bastille to the boulevard Périphérique. It is highly popular with runners as well as for ‘promenading’ and was quite busy mid morning when we were walking it. It is also beautifully planted and in places you would be hard pushed to believe that you weren’t in a larger garden rather than on a city viaduct!

20130409-195454.jpgIt is great to see regeneration on this scale in a city – the walkway itself is great, but the conversion of the arches below is simply stunning and provides fantastic space for new businesses. Sadly I can’t see this level of planning commitment or general vision in the UK – somehow I feel the use of bulldozers would have been more likely?

The Green Deal – a flawed deal?

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Today sees the launch of the Green Deal – you have possible heard of it, but probably don't know the details of what it offers or how it works. The government haven't in my opinion been very forthcoming when it comes to publicising it! So what does it offer and is it worth your time?

20130127-195824.jpgWell, on the face of it the scheme is a great idea, providing funding for home improvement that make a property 'greener' – by way of new boilers, better insulation etc – you get the idea. The repayments are handled by your services provider, the idea being that the savings you make on heating are paid for by the cost of your loan – so in effect your bill doesn't drop, but your house is more efficient – but here lies the problem;

The loan can be over a long period – up to 25 years and passes with the property. So if you do a lot of green deal improvements and then a few years down the line sell up, the loan passes to the next owner.

Perhaps even more of a problem is that the loan is not interest free and this can actually make it more expensive that just borrowing the money on tHe high street to do the works!

But the real killer is that the initial survey is not free – costs of between £100 – £150 are quoted, and this is not recoverable if the green deal won't actually work for your property!

People will only do these works if they can see a benefit in their pocket – everything about the way the deal works goes against this – and is possibly why since October when green deal surveys could start to be done only a handful (literally) have been done!

So a great idea, but very badly managed. Cost to the government will be the reason for the charges and interest payments, but I cannot see the Green Deal doing much business until something changes…..

A painless transfer?

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As some of you who regularly read this blog may be aware, as an energy assessor I was trained by the RICS who are my professional institution. I subsequently lodged all my energy assessments under the RICS accreditation scheme – that is until they gave all their assessors one months notice of the closure of their scheme.

20121201-145557.jpgWell that month has now ended and I have transferred to another accreditation scheme, the transfer has been painless, but sadly that had nothing to do with the RICS who have been spectacularly absent throughout the entire episode.

At the outset I had to chase the RICS for confirmation of the scheme closure – not an auspicious start. Since then I have had one notification of a possible new scheme to join (CIBSE) from them and nothing else – no check to see if I had managed to arrange anything – nothing!

On Friday it also transpired that the scheme actually ended at 4pm – not midnight – so part way through the afternoon I found I couldn’t lodge any EPC’s – great! There was a note on the login page – but no one actually would login that way!

However, Lifespan who I use to lodge my assessments were brilliant and helped me out, also my new accreditation body – sterling – were very helpful and efficient. even CIBSE rang to check I was sorted – but not my professional body.

In an age when as Chartered Surveyors we are being asked to comply with more and more rules and regulations by the RICS it’s nice to see that they have our best interests at heart!

A very impressive hotel!

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We are very lucky in Nottingham to have two first class universities – both very different in terms of their campuses. Nottingham Trent is a city centre university and so visiting people have all the usual city centre facilities. Nottingham University has a wonderful landscaped campus, on the edge of the city. Consequently it has the potential for conferences, but limited local hotel accommodation – until now as a £20m eco-friendly hotel – The Orchard – has opened its doors right next door to the conference centre in the centre of the University main campus.

20121118-140049.jpgDesigned to complement the university-owned De Vere Venues East Midlands Conference Centre, The Orchard features technology to minimise carbon emissions, including a green roof, solar panels and energy-efficient lighting, heating and ventilation systems.

The 202-bedroom hotel also features a roof garden, brasserie and gym. It is also a quite stunning piece of design and is something the University can be justifiably proud of. It is just a shame that we don’t have such ‘interesting’ buildings being built in the city centre.

A challenge for our local architects and developers perhaps?