Commercial Property Blog
All posts tagged: Giles Barrie
I was delighted to see former Labour minister Phil Woolas found guilty of misleading the electorate last week – having got into hot water for calling him Phil `Wool-ass’ in May 2007.
Why was I so rude? Because Woolas was the Treasury ‘lackey’ who had just scrapped empty rates relief.
We continued: `Property Week supported Labour in the last two elections. Now we are being driven further away from its arms by, ironically, a move that will damage its following among less well-off readers up north’.
Fast forward to November 2010 and Woolas has been ejected as a Lancashire MP, and, as anticipated, empty rates have created carnage across the property world.
It’s even sadder that scrapping empty rate relief has wreaked the worst damage outside London and the south-east, forcing landlords to demolish perfectly good properties and choking off new supply.
Yet there are, at least, some chinks of light.
At our Public Property Summit last week Communities minister Baroness Hanham promised BPF chief executive Liz Peace that empty rates would be re-examined as part of a wide-ranging review of business rates.
A ministerial platitude, perhaps, but Peace’s plea was given added weight by an interesting idea floated by Land Securities chief executive Francis Salway at the same event.
He suggested that all new development should be exempt from empty rates.
While some local authorities have turned a blind eye to empty rates bills that industrial developers in particular should have paid, town hall austerity will surely see this leniency end.
If David Cameron is serious about adding growth to his cost-cutting agenda, this idea should go straight to the top of his list.
Meanwhile, Phil `Wool-ass’ will go down as a footnote in property history – as the man who showed in 2007 that Labour was beginning to lose the economic plot.
I am spending the afternoon repaying a bet, watching football and going to the pub.
But it is all in a good cause, as I will explain.
First I need to take Savills' Tracy Collins out for lunch after I bet him last year that my team Charlton and his side West Ham would play each other in the league this year.
As we are still in League One and they are in the Premier League it is a fairly resounding defeat.
However, I plan to 'extend and pretend' and renew the bet for next year.
Then it's off to Islington's Market Road pitches for the Property Champions League.
Accessible Retail, the Shop Agents Society, the Industrial Agents Society and the Office Agents Society are competing for the trophy sitting on my desk.
Mike Slade will be coming along to the Woodstore Bar & Grill at 5 30 to present the trophy - and the whole thing is in aid of LandAid Day.
Please do your bit for charity today: we all know property is about far more than fat cats and champagne.
Let's prove it today...
Today’s front page news about plans to find a partner for the Olympic Village will set tongues wagging in global property circles.
So what is the village like? I spent Tuesday morning touring the site with the outgoing Olympic Delivery Authority chief executive David Higgins and our residential editor Doug Morrison to find out.
First, the plus points:
The access to central London is amazing – with Central and Jubilee Line routes to the West End, the new Stratford International station and even a new Docklands Light Railway station to boot.
The new Westfield shopping centre also has to be a draw. It is 10% bigger than the giant Westfield London in Shepherds Bush, and will surely eat into Capital Shopping Centres’ catchment at Lakeside as a result.
Thirdly, the chance to buy into this type of estate comes up very rarely indeed.
New-build, with potential to add and to manage as a single environment, it is what the likes of Aviva and its American partner Pinnacle have been dying for as they seek to seed a private rented sector fund.
It was, admittedly, gloomy on Tuesday and a building site as well, but one wonders if the blocks look a little too much the same.
The Olympic Delivery Authority engaged a `who’s who’ of up and coming architects, but perhaps in the desire to get the Oympics finished on time some dash and verve was cut out.
The apartments themselves seem perfectly adequate, and once the landscaping is in will be a decent place to live.
All in all, an interesting development – but far more intriguing potentially as the test bed for large scale residential funding in the UK.
• Many have already written off the chances of the Olympic Media and Broadcast Centres having any useful life after the Games.
But why not split them into three uses:
i) As storage space for London’s art galleries
ii) As light industrial
iii) As big box retail
The third idea has had very little airing but why not? There is room for 1500 parking spaces, the site is bang on the six lane A12, and how many big shopping centres have big retail parks next door?
Big box retail would also bring this end of the Olympic park to life – so come on developers and retailers – check it out.
I will let you into a secret: I am in a drinking club with David Higgins, the newly-anointed chief executive of Network Rail.
I will explain all in a minute, but first, what do I think about Higgins’ switch from the Olympic Delivery Authority to the national rail operator? And what is Higgins actually like?
The move is a good one all round, if a little earlier than anticipated, and marks a remarkable rebound for Higgins from a tough 1995-2002 when he was in charge of Lend Lease.
There he was criticised for buying construction group Bovis and pulling back from investment property, and with the nickname `The Professor’ at times seemed to be too cerebral for the private sector world.
But while The Prof may have seemed too academic for analysts and agents, he was right at home at English Partnerships, which had completely lost its way before Higgins arrived.
His stint in charge between 2003 and 2005 was a great era for regeneration, with things actually getting built rather than being the subject of endless `framework’ discussions or masterplanning ideas.
But surely in taking on the Olympics job Higgins would be heading for a fall? Remember, Britain hadn’t really expected to win the 2012 Games, we were ill-prepared, and the far smaller Wembley and Cardiff Millennium Stadium projects had been in construction disarray.
But Higgins will surely receive a knighthood for getting the 2012 Games this far on time and under-budget.
A cool head and an ability to `chunk down’ the task into manageable stages – preparation, construction, fitting-out – miraculously mean the project is now on the home straight.
On a recent visit to the Games site he told me there are new problems to deal with every day, but that one of his key roles is to be out on the vast site two to three days a week.
Optimism is Higgins’ other key trait – and let’s hope for the property industry’s sake that he is the man who finally unlocks the undoubted potential of Network Rail’s sprawling estate.
And the drinking club? Liz Peace, former Hines UK chief Stephen Musgrave, David Higgins and myself meet once a year at Christmas to repeat a tradition started at an IPD/IPF conference several years back.
We always strike a series of bets, returning to discover who was right the next year.
Last year’s was over the 2010 General Election. Most of us predicted a Conservative majority, but Higgins said there would be a hung parliament.
Now deeply entrenched in the UK public sector and political scene, he was bound to be right.
I almost choked on my Braised New Season Shank of Lamb at the City planning committee annual dinner last night.
The reason was my astonishment at the laziness and selfishness of the hordes of sports bureaucrats who will be descending on London in 2012.
In case you don't know, an 'Olympic Route Network' is being set up throughout the Games to ferry these hangers on from their Mayfair hotels to the games at Stratford in the east.
This means lanes being closed throughout central London as 'VIPs' are whisked through, with Lower Thames Street the most important thoroughfare involved.
Only two of its four lanes will be open, and security restrictions will mean further misery for the people who work there.
There are 15,000 people working in blocks between the river and Lower Thames Street, many of whom couldn't give two hoots about the games.
The organisers' argument is that these officials need to be able to get to Stratford in 23 minutes, but that totally misses the point.
If they need to get from the West End to Stratford quickly, there is a perfectly quick and efficient way.
It's called the Jubilee Line.
The other argument is that central London will be empty anyway. Because everyone will be on holiday or at the Games.
Forgive me, but some of us have jobs to do, and prefer football and cricket to athletics in the world of sport.
And why should we care about officials anyway? Surely the Games is all about the athletes, who will have no problems strolling to their events from their village onsite.
City of London Planning and Transportation committee chair Martin Farr was very measured in his speech last night on the subject of the Olympic Route Network.
'Of particular concern is the route from the West End to Olympic destinations,' he said. 'Detailed discussions are under way between the City and the Olympic Delivery Authority', he said.
The 115 strong audience at the dinner, held on the eighth floor of Minerva's The Walbrook building and including Sir Stuart Lipton and Gerald Ronson, must have been impressed at his restraint.
I for one would be telling the Olympic fat cats to be getting on the tube, saving us all a load of hassle and cost.
Meanwhile, I am doing my own 'Olympics' this weekend, running the Greenwich 'Run to the Beat' half marathon for LandAid Day.
Please dig deep for this good cause by going to www.justgiving.com/giles-barrie
I hope to see you there.
I voted Labour in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005 for a fairer Britain.
I voted Conservative for the same reason today.
Growing up in south east London as the son of two journalists my older brother and sister went to private school.
Then my dad's publishing business went belly up in the 1970s, and I was despatched to a local comprehensive, Eltham Green.
Best known as the alma mater of Charlton and West Ham legend Billy Bonds and Boy George it wasn't easy going there with a name like Giles.
But Eltham Green did ingrain in me a deep dislike of ingrained privilege when it is put to the wrong use.
There were plenty of kids from good families there who should still be doing better than some thick types who were my older brother and sister's friends.
So I voted Labour first time round in 1987.
Voting Labour became even easier when I went to Leeds University, and the city was dominated by the miners strike.
That, too, didn't seem fair.
Then I became a fan of Tony Blair, with his charisma, pragmatism and even his strong line against the nutter Saddam Hussein.
And I really didn't like Michael Howard or what he stood for last time round.
But I couldn't vote Labour today.
We have all been working so hard in the private sector, but for what?
To read in today's FT that Britain has, according to the European Commission, a budget deficit higher than Greece's and Ireland's at 12% of GDP.
Global financial crisis or not, it didn't need to be like this: the EU average deficit is 7.2%.
This is unfair on you and I because it will give us higher taxes and reduced public services.
If the public sector was more efficiently run, with less people on long term sick or working 9 to 5 hours we wouldn't have to make many cuts at all.
I would have no problem voting Labour again, but today they are not for me.
Forgive me for writing as a journalist and not as a property specialist today.
I am doing so because it has been an amazing week which was neatly summed up by the buzz at our industry body's annual conference today.
In short, the journalist of today has to do everything, all the time.
That is great, because I love to be busy and innovation turns me on, but it couldn't be more different even from our world three years ago.
In those days it was print, print, print work, with a little bit of web and events thrown in.
Now the job is an equal split between all three.
The mood at the Periodical Publishers Association conference at the Park Plaza Westminster Hotel was this:
People want and need more media than ever before in as many different ways as possible.
So here was my week:
Monday morning: group editorial meeting
Monday afternoon: Public Property Summit meetings
Monday night: chairing PW editorial advisory board
Tuesday morning: host 2 hour live webcast with MPs John Healey and Bob Neill
Tuesday lunch at Coutts
Tuesday pm and evening: helping to organise, and hosting Property Awards.
Wednesday morning: press day, writing Leader for 10 30. Knackered, enjoying thanks for awards, and not enjoying one very, very annoying spat with a PR person.
Thursday am: web seminar with GL Hearn and British Land on planning.
Thursday am: speaking at PPA conference on PW redesign, Invest UK, Property Network and Property Week Global Interactive.
Thursday pm: interviewing two very good internal candidates for our Occupiers Correspondent role.
Now off to the King Sturge 250th party.
How has your job changed? Let me know...
Apologies for not blogging on Friday afternoon - I was celebrating with my team.
I took a rare, impromptu half day after one of the best days in the journalism calendar the Periodicals Training Council Awards, where the best young business and consumer magazine journalists are honoured.
The reason for the visit to The Anchor at Bankside?
Our own Occupiers Correspondent Hardeep Sandher was not only named New Business Features Journalist of the Year, but also New Journalist of the Year overall.
This is an amazing feat, given that Hardeep was up against the best young talent from BBC magazines, Elle, Wallpaper*, Shortlist, The Times magazine, Company, New Scientist and our own sister title `Building'.
I was also with Jenny Rigby, our highly talented news correspondent, who was Highly Commended in both the New News Journalist and the New Features Journalist categories.
So forgive me, because Hardeep, Jenny, Lucy, Shep and I were otherwise engaged before I tottered off home to Mrs Barrie and the kids at 6.30pm.
Normal service will be resumed this week.
I spent a riveting evening yesterday at the Jewish Association for Business Ethics Annual Dinner and Seminar hearing industry luminaries wrestling with some pretty profound problems.
Sky News presenter and Daily Telegraph editor-at-large Jeff Randall deserves credit for posing some very tough questions – as do his panelists Nick Leslau, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Mick Davis, chief executive of mining giant Xstrata for answering them.
The title of the debate was: 'The Recession: Re-Establishing Trust'.
Perhaps Randall’s toughest question in front of the 200-plus guests at London’s Park Lane Hotel surrounded New York financier Bernie Madoff, who stole billions from a mainly Jewish clientele: `Was Madoff a Jewish problem, or a problem who happened to be Jewish?’
Chief Rabbi Sacks said: `It just shows what happens in a community where people don’t know what to expect from each other…that is one reason why New York is wanting to learn from the Jewish Association of Business Ethics.’
Leslau said: `Madoff was a crook and a sociopath. What is sad is the people he deceived were not chasing extraordinary gains: Madoff was the steady `Prudential’ of his world.’
Addressing capitalism as a whole, Davis said: `In the last 18 months a lot of people have become cynical about capitalism, claiming that the system is rotten. But people who still have a belief in capitalism will rise from this.’
The media also took its fair share of stick at the JABE seminar, but while journalists may not have uncovered the flaws of sub-prime mortgages or MPs expenses early enough it is rich for anyone to blame our world for writing extensively about these disasters once they have emerged.
Once you start restricting that, you really do have a moral problem on your hands.
Last Wednesday night before setting off for a couple of days `r and r’ with Mrs Barrie in Madrid I was reminded of just how lucky most of people in property and media are.
The occasion? The launch of LandAid’s `Foundation Partners’ scheme, through which 25 of the biggest company names in property have committed money, advice and training to the industry charity for the homeless.
Land Securities’ – one of the partners – hosted the reception at its Cardinal Place development in Victoria, and it was attended by a number of industry heavyweights including Prupim chief Martin Moore, Helical Bar chief executive and LandAid president Mike Slade and Derwent London chief executive John Burns
Among the other foundation partners are Grosvenor, Hammerson, British Land, Frogmore and SEGRO, with the idea that the partners each donate £10,000 a year for three years.
At this point it is worth recalling why LandAid was set up not long after Live Aid in the 1980s – because people in property make a lot of money out of the built environment while others struggle to even get a roof over their heads.
It is also worth remembering that most younger people are not homeless because they are lazy, drunk or drug addicts – it’s most often because they have had an incredibly tough start in life.
To find out more about LandAid go to www.landaid.org, or e-mail its chief executive Jon Siddall at firstname.lastname@example.org, and look out for more on the evening in Property Week.