Commercial Property Blog
All posts from: February 2010
Bullying, clunking fists, inflexibility and a relentless demand for the highest standards.
Sound familiar? Yes. What’s alleged in Number 10 is, in a manner of speaking, par for the course in rugby.
Gordo or Johnno, there’s not a great deal of difference in the approach. But whereas in rugby that ferocious desire to succeed and the tough men that nurture it see it as part of the culture, it’s a different story in the Civil Service.
I’m not drawing any conclusions here – and I’d call it tough love in rugby not bullying – but it’s an interesting parallel for two leaders under pressure and two men trying to get the most out of their teams.
I’ve had a lot of time to think during the last week. Five days in the saddle from Nice to Paris on the Dallaglio Cycle Slam (thanks Mr G for your donation and, if anyone else would like to, please feel free to donate at http://www.justgiving.com/riggers7) – most of it in the tipping rain – means plenty of moments for reflection and it’s only after a good deal of thought that I’m backing England to win on Saturday by less than five points.
Why? Because they’ve got momentum (something you learn a lot about in long-distance cycling!).
That, together with home advantage, will make the difference between two otherwise evenly matched sides.
I can’t point to an area of particular weakness or strength between the teams. Both solid, both well equipped, both with a depth of experience and talent.
But whereas England are two from two, Ireland have just been kicked in the teeth in Paris – completely outplayed some would say – and they didn’t do a great deal to inspire confidence in the opener against Italy.
I’d say Twickenham is the last place O’Driscoll and his men would want to come right now and, although I respect the old adage of fearing a team on the bounce, I’m backing England.
I’m backing Jonny too. England are a stronger team when he starts. I’d like him to play a little flatter on Saturday and focus on simple ‘heads up rugby’ but I’m glad he’s got the 10 shirt. Tasty too that he is going up against young Sexton. The Sorcerer and the Apprentice!
Flipping across to Friday night and Cardiff, if Wales have got any more ‘Get out of Jail’ cards left, I want the version of Monopoly they’re playing with!
Their last gasp brilliance against Scotland was wonderful to watch but a disaster too. They allowed themselves to get into that position and they were very lucky to get out of it!
With France in town – and Cardiff a pretty happy hunting ground for them – it’s a question of French tails up and a wicked 80 minutes ahead for the men in red. I’m calling France by 10 or more. Too much beef – bit ironic that – and too much capability right across the park. Good luck Wales, you’re going to need it.
In Rome, it’s wooden spoon time I’m afraid.
Similar to Twickenham, I see these two sides as evenly matched and a tight game in store. The Scots have been putting down some markers about running back kicks and mixing it up and that would be great to see.
More likely, I fear, will be two teams desperate not to lose and wracked by fear of mistakes. Come on Scotland, show us that ambition! I’ll tip you to win by three if you do!
Lastly, a word on a great young player I know well and someone who, the last time England hosted Ireland, lit up Twickenham – Danny Cipriani.
Personally, I get where Danny is coming from. All of us at Wasps are sad to see him leave but, having spent a season down under myself (I spent a year at Hawkes Bay in New Zealand), I know just how fulfilling it can be and what it can do to broaden your experience and your game.
Now I’m no Danny Cipriani, but Johnno did this too and it has a lot of sense about it. Danny will be playing in the Super 15 where his skills will be to the fore and, if he’s back in two years as we hope he will be, I’d wager he’ll be smarter, wiser, more effective and a better all round player.
At just 24 years old, that would be a great place to be – and a platform from which he could kick on to 50 caps and beyond. Who knows? Good luck to Danny – and I just hope the young Sexton doesn’t have the impact on this fixture that he had in 2008!
Let me know what you think. Now the bike’s back in the garage, I’m all ears!
My calls for this week:
England to beat Ireland by less than five points.
France to beat Wales by more than 10 points.
Scotland to beat Italy by three points.
That was awful. Running up Tower 42 for today’s Vertical Rush was a lung-bursting, gruesome but ultimately rewarding experience.
It is hard to explain how tough the 920-stair challenge is: you start by running and then by floor five the awful truth dawns: it is going to be much, much tougher than you think.
Round and round you go, gripping the railing, moans and groans echoing around the early 1980s stairwell.
The odd person doubled up and wretching, most people in their solitary hell.
Get to 14 floors – a third of the way.
Get to 21 floors – halfway
Get to 32 floors – ten to go.
Encouraging ladies tell you that you have passed the height of Battersea Power Station, passed the height of the Gherkin, and you finally know you are nearing the end of your personal hell.
And at the top: nirvana.
A bottle of water, wonderful views over the City of London, esprit de corps with my colleagues Jacqui, David, Nick, Mike, Richard and Matt – and we are there.
Full marks to organisers Shelter, Hermes and Blackrock for what has quicky become a key Square Mile event.
More than £180,000 is expected to be raised, and I am looking forward to handing out the `Fastest Property Team’ prize tonight.
I’ll be getting tucked into the champagne as well – and I reckon I deserve it.
Look out for David Doyle’s film on the Vertical Rush any day, and more coverage in the March 5 and March 12 Property Weeks.
If anyone thought golf was dull Tiger Woods has managed to prove them wrong. Not only did he rewrite the way to play but he also managed to set new benchmarks on how to play away! Of course the void he has left is being filled by wonderful talent who are climbing the greasy pole to stardom and winning.
For the first time, in a long time, Britain has three players in the World’s top 6 and we have seen Ian Poulter, the quietly dressed introvert, win the WGC Accenture Match Play in Arizona. Even better – the other finalist was Paul Casey, his fellow Briton.
Now all of this leads to the prospect of a very exciting Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in September. As an aside, those attending RESI will be the last guests at Celtic Manor before the Ryder Cup so with any luck we can hide under a bed and sneak in for free!
Seriously, the tournaments between now and then will be scrutinised, analysed and interrogated for signs, hints and trends on the European and the American teams. No doubt the billion dollar question will be whether Tiger resumes his career this year and will be in the USA team. Not that he has made a great impact on previous appearances.
For the average hacker, we will suffice our time by playing on the best courses we can with friends and business acquaintances… imagining if only we could make the ball dance at our command. Of course one of the delights we have is experiencing somewhere like San Lorenzo in June, regardless of talent, easing our conscience by raising money for Sparks. Check out http://network.propertyweek.com/events/sparks-property-golf-classic
After more leaks than the Titanic and more false starts than a botched NASA mission, the Tories’ planning green paper is now out.
It was with a thud as sloppy as a pair of Gordon Brown’s socks hitting a hapless aide in the face that the Conservatives’ planning green paper finally made its official appearance this afternoon. It limped onto the interweb without fuss or fanfare and after Property Week exclusively unveiled it weeks ago, it confirms pretty much everything you’ve probably already heard about.
With the drubbing the paper’s received in some quarters of the media over plans (delete as appropriate) to: promote/stop housing, promote/stop Travellers, promote/stop supermarkets and maybe promote/stop the kidnapping of Haiti orphans too, no one can blame the Tories for picking a a day when newspapers will be focusing on lynching our prime monster or using the Cashley Cole scandal to print suggestive pictures of Cheryl.
What’s most starling is that as I write this Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, has a link to some other report about Labour’s housing failure on his Twitter and Facebook pages rather than keeping something up Open Source. It’s most odd.
Clearly, there are some policies that will concern the industry but before everyone gets too excitable and doom-mongery let’s read the title again. ‘Green’ paper. Meaning: ‘not ripe’. So while the overriding themes about localism and empowering communities are here to stay, there could well be room for debate on some of the details of how this is achieved. The industry should keep this in mind and look at how we can engage with the Tories to make their localism agenda deliver for everyone.
Remember property industry: this paper hasn’t been written for you, it’s been written for probably everyone else.
So amid all the talk of ‘open source planning’ (which rattles a little bit of your gran mimicking Ali-G street talk in an endearing attempt to sound cool), there’s lots of pleas to restore the ‘broken’ planning system by democratising everything, scrapping targets and devolving power away from Whitehall down to the lowest possible level.
It’s a laudable aim but one wonders if Joe Sun Reader would rather spend his morning being quizzed on spatial planning or perhaps stay in bed eating chips watching Jeremy Kyle. Do people really care or do they only come out when they want to stop things happening? There’s a large sense of this playing very much to the pure Tory-in-the-Shire gallery.
But that doesn’t mean everything should be discounted as ‘electioneering’ twaddle.
In truth, while the industry will now claim that it’s happy with how things are and that it doesn’t want a new system, the Tories have only responded to the frustration constantly articulated by everyone ALL OF THE TIME. And that’s why this report is about ripping up the system and starting again. Sometimes if you ask enough times you get what you ask for.
The green paper proposes a new national planning framework approved by Parliament, an end to regional and local targets, a mandate for plan making to be done through ‘collaborative democracy’ and the removal of the planning inspectorate (PINS) from the plan making process. It’s somewhat ironic that they want to dumb down PINS – the one thing all sides agree works fine.
But in all, so far, not so bad.
Similarly, a presumption in favour of sustainable development if an application conforms with national and local policy, pays a local tariff and goes through an appropriate public consultation process also seems fine, if incredibly similar to the existing system. And while few will mourn the potential death of CIL one suspects that the new tariff proposal (which everyone was a big fan of two years ago if memory serves me correct) may look very similar, perhaps with a trendier name and typexed teeth.
However, the serious fear here is that these changes could make things worse, although the Tories could fairly point out that little progress has been made in recent years and throughout the 2,147 or so consultations, reports and acts that have been passed under Labour.
And then there’s a heap of really positive things here that the industry can fully welcome – many of which we’ve actually pushed for. The much discussed local incentives – where rates are matched funded for six years and their commitment to carrying forward the Killian Pretty Review recommendations are easy wins. Meanwhile a commitment to investigate the opportunities for further permitted development rights is also positive.
The anti-supermarket clause has been toned a bit although the paper still sets out support for the “needs test” and some form of competition test while also scrapping the predetermination rules and scrapping the IPC. Of course the third party right of appeal proposals – dressed up as making the appeals system ‘symmetrical’ – is a recipe for chaos. Interestingly, a national tabloid had been told that they were in fact ‘tightening up’ the appeals process. And indeed, they impressed to me this evening that the loopholes for third party appeals would be sufficiently tight to ensure the system wasn’t crippled.
But after the proposals got shot down in Scotland following the disaster in Ireland where appeals doubled over night, this won’t wash with the industry. If you have a sound decision-making process which is already front-loaded and thus already democratic, why the need for further avenues for appeal? It’s a contradiction of their very policies and is something the industry will fight tooth and nail to oppose.
Since we first saw the paper though, our favourite line has been the ‘brown envelope charter’ hinted at on page three where it says firms should “reach voluntary agreements that recompense immediate neighbours for any loss of amenity”. What do you reckon Prince Charles will want in exchange for a new Amazon shed in his back yard?
Set out below is a detailed summary of the Green Paper.
• The planning system is ‘broken’
• The planning system should be used as a vehicle to encourage greater civic participation and democracy and will help communities to ‘formulate a shared vision for sustainable development’
• Introduce ‘open source planning’ which is a basic national framework of policies which can be implemented and interpreted locally. Local communities determining the vision for their area
Three key principles to open source planning
• Restore democratic and local control over the planning system
• Rebalance the system in favour of sustainable development
• Produce a simpler, quicker, cheaper and less bureaucratic planning system
National framework for development
• Completely reform national planning guidance – Planning Policy Statements, guidance notes etc
• Create a national planning framework which integrates into one document the principal features of all national planning policies. The framework will set out what the government’s priorities are and how they relate to each other
• The framework will be debated and voted on by resolution in both Houses of Parliament
• Maintain national Green Belt protection, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, Sites of Specific Scientific Interest and other environmental designations
• Abolish the entire tier of regional planning, including the Regional Spatial Strategies, the Regional Planning Bodies, and national and regional building targets
• Anticipate using primary legislation to make such changes but will consider using executive powers of the Secretary of State (SoS) to revoke all or part of RSSs before legislation is introduced
• Will consider how further decentralisation can take place in London
Local plans and transition
• Mandate that all local authorities use ‘collaborative democracy’ to create local plans - i.e. make sure communities are at the heart of drawing up their local plan
• Legislate that if new local plans have not been completed within a prescribed period then the presumption in favour of sustainable development will automatically apply
• Introduce transitional arrangements to cover implementation of the new local planning system
Presumption in favour of sustainable development
• A guiding principle of the planning system will be a presumption in favour of sustainable development
• It will be unlawful for LPAs to refuse permission for a development if:
? the application is from a Local Housing Trust that has the required level of local support and meets certain standard criteria, including conformity with the national planning framework, or
? the application
(i) conforms to the local plan (and hence with national planning framework)
(ii) is accompanied by a payment of the agreed level of local tariff
(iii) in the case if larger projects, is the product of an appropriate public consultation process, e.g. Enquiry by design
Where needs be LPAs will be given new enforcement powers to tackle planning applications that, having been granted, turn out to be substantially misleading
• Retain existing categorisation of uses, with an assumption that all approved existing uses are legitimate
• Amend the Use Classes Order so planning permission is not required for a change of use within a range allowed by the local community in its local plan
Remove power from Planning Inspectorate (PINS)
• Remove the planning inspectors’ powers to change local plans
• PINS will be asked to report to the SoS on any direct breaches of national planning guidance and process
• Where the SoS finds that a local plan breaches national planning guidance, is not appropriately spatial, or has not been produced within the statutory framework, it will be for the local planning authority (LPA) to amend and resubmit its local plan
• Beyond these matters of process, all other aspects of a local plan will be determined by local people
• Reform planning appeals system to allow appeals against local planning decisions from local residents, as well as from developers
• Limit the grounds for appeal to 1) correct procedure was not followed when assessing the application, with such appeals being determined by the Local Government Ombudsman and 2) decision reached is in contravention of the local plan, with such appeals handled by PINS.
• A mechanism for weeding out frivolous or malicious appeals which would significantly delay development will be introduced
• ‘Communities and councils will have more freedom to set energy efficiency and renewable generation requirements for new developments’
Housing targets and affordable housing
• LPAs encouraged to use Option 1 numbers (projected housing numbers up to 2026) as a baseline for provision of new housing in their area
• Guidance will be issued on how housing needs cab be assessed with a general acceptance that a five year land supply for housing provision is a good base-line to start from
• LPAs will not be required to have local affordable housing targets in their local plan although they can retain such targets if they want to
• LPAs will be able require in their local plan that a certain proportion of housing developed in their area is affordable
• Every new affordable housing unit that is built will earn the local authority in question 125% of the council tax raised by that unit, annually for a period of six years, to be paid through Matching Fund (revenue neutral policy)
• Create Local Housing Trust to allow villages and towns to develop the local homes providing there is strong community backing. The type and quantity of housing to be built will be for the community to decide
• All non-market housing built by Local Housing Trusts will remain in local ownership in perpetuity
• Expect local authorities to set out architectural and design standards in their local plans
• Legislate to require that on projects above certain thresholds, before they can submit a planning application, developers involve the local community in collaborative design, as determined by the LPA
• Encourage unitary or upper tier authorities to take a strategic view and take the lead in compiling infrastructure plans
• In the context of putting such plans together, legislate to give all local planning authorities and other public authorities a Duty to Co-operate.
• Returning planning obligations to their original function by limiting their use to stipulations relating directly to site-specific remediation and adaptation
• Scrap CIL and non-site specific planning obligations and instead introduce a single unified local tariff applicable to all residential and non-residential development (even a single dwelling) at graded rates depending on the size of the development
• The local tariff will not be charged on affordable housing, housing built by a Local Housing Trust, or any self-build housing
• A percentage of the money raised by the tariff will be passed directly to the community where the development takes place
• If more than a small minority of residential neighbours in the immediate vicinity of a new development (of any type) raise any objection, then the conformity of the planning application with the local plan must be formally assessed by the LPA
• It’s anticipated that ‘in many cases developers will choose to avoid the need for formal assessment of the application [by the LPA] and hence speed up the planning process by reaching voluntary agreements to compensate nearby householders for the impact of the development on their amenity, in return for their support’
• Abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission replacing it with a Major Infrastructure Unit, with its own special character, within a revised departmental structure that includes PINS
• National Policy Statements will be integrated into a revised and simplified system of national planning guidance
• Major infrastructure projects will be divided into two categories: 1) major linear projects, which will be implemented through hybrid or private bills 2) other major infrastructure projects, which will be will be decided by short and focused planning inquiries carried out by the new Major Infrastructure Unit and governed by a new national priorities planning framework
• The inspector running the inquiry will make a recommendation to the SoS, who will be required to take the final decision on the application within a specified time limit.
• Transition measures will be introduced for applications already begun under the existing system
• Allow communities that choose to host wind farms to keep the business rates they generate for six years
• Examine how community ownership of wind turbines can be introduced and how discounted electricity can be available to communities in the vicinity of wind farms
• Create a Conservation Credits scheme which creates incentives to protect biodiversity. The scheme could mean that housing or public infrastructure projects are required to factor in the loss of biodiversity and provide new habitats
• Abolish density targets, reverse the classification of gardens as brownfield land and allow councils to prevent over-development of neighbourhoods and stop 'garden grabbing'
Scrapping predetermination rules
• Legislate to ensure that councillors (while being properly prevented from advancing personal interests) have the freedom to campaign and represent their constituents, and then speak and vote on those issues without fear of breaking the rules of ‘pre-determination’
• give an automatic right to change the use of any existing building to educational use as a matter of permitted development
• preserve the current stock of land available for new schools by legislating to require that all existing land that is currently used for ‘non-residential institutional purposes’ (Use Class D1) is kept as D1 land, unless the SoS for Children, Schools and Families agrees to an application for change of use
• require that planning applications to build new schools be assessed following the same system as for non-linear major infrastructure projects i.e. decided by short and focused planning inquiries carried out by PINS and governed by our new national priorities framework, followed by a decision by the SoS for Children, Schools and Families
• Any school promoter will have the right of appeal to the SoS for Children, Schools and Families in the event of unreasonable delay/objection from any local authority
• Topslice the national business rates pool to create a new fund that will remunerate local authorities that allow the development of new schools as if the schools that are created were not subject to relief and paid full business rates
Mobile phone masts
• All types of mobile phone masts in England will have to obtain planning permission through a full process.
• There is a whole raft of policies on travellers aimed at tackling unauthorized sites and providing LPAs will greater powers to address problem issues associated with this area of policy
• Reintroduce the needs test
• Enable local authorities to take competition issues into account when formulating their local plans
• Amend planning guidance to abolish rules which force up parking charges and remove central Government parking standards, which will be determined at a local level
• Introduce into the national planning framework rules preventing the development of the most fertile farmland, part from in exceptional circumstances
• Extend the designation of brownfield land to include land previously occupied by agricultural buildings (erected before specified date).
• Return the determination of the amounts of minerals required back to Minerals and Wastes Planning Authorities, subject to national environmental standards to ensure that each authority makes its provision in a fair and sustainable way
• Simplify and reduce building regulations and ensure that the regulation is proportionate to the risk
• Believe that building regulations can ‘play a significant role in greening…housing stock’
• Review blight laws to ensure that the reimbursement for blight is quicker and that the level of compensation is fair
Killian Pretty / permitted development
• Except the recommendations of the Killian Pretty Review where they are in accordance with the concept of ‘open source planning’ and Tory Party policy
• Ask the Review to reform to examine if more permitted development can be introduced
• Make installation of micro-generators in non-listed properties permitted development
• Introduce a presumption in favour of planning permission for the installation of micro-generating equipment in, or in the curtilage of, listed buildings where this does not detract from aesthetic quality or architectural and historical interest
• Restrict the concept of retrospective planning permission to permit only the rectification of genuine mistakes
My friends in the north tell me that plans for an Abu-Dhabi backed mixed use extravaganza adjacent to Manchester City’s ground are moving faster than Carlos Tevez on speed.
Manchester sources tell me that City Council chief executive Howard Bernstein is leading the talks on one side.
Manchester City chairman and former Nike executive Garry Cook is on the other.
And, intriguingly, I hear that a third person is popping up more and more in the talks: City director and top New York real estate attorney Marty Edelman.
When Sheikh Mansour bought City in autumn 2008 Edelman was installed as a director of the club, and has long been considered the ideal man to advise it on property affairs.
Now, I hear that these are taking shape. If City buy the 38-acre site near City of Manchester Stadium that was once earmarked for a supercasino, expect far more than a training camp.
Sources in Manchester tell me that a showcase for everything the city does is being planned, from music to film to TV, as well as a determined effort to steal the football stage.
Moving the FA Museum from the cradle of football at Preston North End’s ground is one idea being mooted, as well, possibly as a UEFA or even a FIFA museum.
Asked about the plans at Property Week’s `North-West 2010’ conference in Manchester last week, Sir Howard gave a rare `no comment’.
Look out for an announcement by Easter.
Life by Mantra
'Never look forward to anything until it is in your grasp' In other words, not until you are eating, sleeping or drinking your desire can you take it as a given that it will happen. Stating that you are looking forward to something is currently a deadly sin as you effectively put it back on the shelf. A difficult rule to live by, especially when small things like a drink can spur you on, but necessary if you are to stay mentally sane.
Examples include: being informed that the next (modern day petrol stationesque) oasis is 10k away. 20k later the only bit of shade for miles is found, along with information that the next watering hole is in fact another 40k. Lies...so many lies (and severe language barrier issues). 3 nights later idyllic tent spot found next to roadside medical people (friendly, educated, some English) who gave us tea and a pipe (result). Tents put up, dinner about to be cooked. Ah but no! It is apparently not safe in this desert where nothing lives except for sleezy police (Egyptian tourism policing rules)! We are carted off to local mosquitoe friendly police station by road (the silver lining being the free 10 miles we got driven in the right direction).
On the back of that night, Duncan and I were cruising down a hill trying to think of anything good we had to say about Egypt. Very little it would seem. Dust, heat, no life, no trees, rubbish everywhere, no desire to look after their country, frustrating stupid police (I'll explain in a bit), over touristy tourism spots (a contradiction in terms, but we showed up at the pyramids at 7am at the same time as 20 bus loads). I give it a 0 out of 10 for places I have visited. 20 minutes later we reached the Nile and everything changed. Lush tropical paradise seems like a reasonable description. Palm trees, crops everywhere, birds (swallows, egrets, kingfishers, nightingales, herons), animals and flowers everywhere. Even really smiley people. I can see why they're more chipper than those on the red sea.
So the police, the pigs, the narcs, the filth! They're a pain in the bum. They insist on giving you an escort (providing me with the momentary belief that I am in fact a professional sportsman competing in the Tour De France). This is in fact annoying as they tell you to hurry when you stop to rest, and work with the shopkeepers to scam us on the cost of food (difficult to barter with stupid gun wielding cops). To top this, they shamelessly sleaze on Lindsey (winking, touching). Camera phones are an unfortunate invention allowing sleazy men to take photos of Lindsey constantly without (my?) permission (John is in fact surrogate husband).
Anyway, following our uplifted mood upon arriving at the Nile, we were then slammed back down to our lowest point yet. A nice man let us camp near his hut (and gave us a pipe...result). John and I were then sick after dinner (John all night) and we were harrassed by the police again (it's not safe (again)). That combined with the regular earthquaking honking trains, cars, lorries, a highly depressed (or happy...who knows) braying donkey and the delightful sound of John retching all night and it's safe to say that the next day I had few (nice) words for anyone (or anything...my bike especially). 4 hours and 30 odd miles later, we stopped outside a blacksmith to snooze in the shade (poor John feeling worse than anyone). Having been left to rest, we are invited into a Muslim families home who gave us a huge meal and tea purely out of their goodwill. Despite the difficult language problems, we stayed for almost 2 hours. They were very religious (younger men not allowed to look at Lindsey, Lindsey not allowed to touch them (shake hands), difficult for her to remember as a naturally very friendly person, religious chanting on tv (bizarrely all they seem to watch out here despite having sky)) and quoted some text to us about looking after their fellow man and you will receive the same in return. The actual words i'm sure are pretty much identical to those in Christianity which begs the obvious question about the futility of religious friction when everyone is trying to achieve the same goal (but I'll save you my agnostic sermon). All in all though, an incredibly heartwarming experience that gave us a great insight into Muslim life and Muslim family dynamics (women seem highly segregated (different buses) but in the household you got the impression the wife ran much of the show (no pictures allowed of her though).
So we made it to Aswan (Aswan dam....geography GCSE?) where we get the ferry tomorrow to Sudan. I can't wait. Sudan is clearly a road less travelled and by that very fact, an interesting place to go. My malaria pills are causing my skin to burn so I have the fear a bit about more desert, but it should be great. We are now 5 as Ollie (who is cycling to ashes in oz) has joined until Ethiopia.
In conclusion, if Egypt simply comprised of the Nile then it might get toward 6 or 7 out of 10, but essentially most of it is dusty desert and only merits a 3 overall. I wouldn't advise anyone to visit (unless you are going windsurfing and diving).
1 country from 9 done, total miles 605, 10 days, longest 92, shortest 30 (day one), bum sore, muscles ache, six pack buried along with the pharoes but like tutam karmoun (?) we'll find it eventually (and then you'll all be cursed??....isn't that what happens with mummified remains?). Next update possibly Khartoum, where, thanks to Ollie, we may be playing cricket. Surely it will be on Sky Sports. Photos to come
Ps. As I don't think my video upload, I'll include what appears to be a popular tune of ours at present [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWVshkVF0SY[/youtube]
What’s 10 minutes in the bin worth in international rugby? That’s the question testing many of us after six games and six yellow cards. Weekend One yellow = game over for the Welsh. Weekend Two and it’s grandstand finish and ‘Cymru am byth’ – that’s ‘Wales forever’ for you and me. And boy what a climax that was!
I’ve watched a lot of the Guinness Premiership and my guess is that a yellow counts for around three points at that level. Unhelpful but not game changing. At Twickenham and Cardiff, we’ve seen just how effective international sides can be at exploiting the weakness, working the space and punishing the opposition. Double digit scoreboard changes within 10 minutes – and any side will find that hard to handle.
France look every inch the best side in the Championship after these opening two matches. Sure, England are equal on points but have played only 10 minutes of rugby in 160. I take my hat off to Lievremont for the start he’s made in two tough games. Smart play right across the side and a formidable spine running through 2, 8, 9, 10 and 15. Talented players all and, what’s more, high in confidence. Take a look at Poitrenaud and he’s a million miles from the player who committed one of the most calamitous cock-ups I’ve ever seen on a rugby field (gifting Rob Howley a vital score for Wasps in a Heineken Cup Final!). This is a side on the move. The strutting coqs of the Stade de France are leading the way and it’s hard to say they deserve anything less.
What about Ireland then? The Green Machine that we all thought might push on and confirm genuine world-class calibre. I’m not writing them off by any stretch but I’ve yet to be impressed. Stuttering against Italy, disjointed against France – where’s the movement and menace that made them such a joy to watch and nightmare to play against last season? Big game for them next time out.
I’ve been thinking about the aerial ping-pong arguments as well. England’s response in Rome was far from inspired. As Justin Marshall said in his commentary, it looked like no-one wearing white was prepared to grab it, back himself and have a go. You simply have to do that to keep the opposition honest. Believe me, if you get predictable, you get neutralised in top class rugby and that’s the mistake England made. Trevor Woodman taught me this when talking front row tactics – different area of the game but exactly the same solution. You simply have to approach each play – scrum or kick return – in a different way. Adjust the way you pack down, change your bind, shift your point of attack, anything it takes to keep your oppo guessing. I wish we’d seen Armitage, Cueto and Monye doing that. Instead you’d have been lucky to get anything better than even money that they’d kick it straight back! I’d like to see some of the speedsters take a risk or two – especially against the ‘lesser’ opposition. We are in the entertainment business after all.
I always fear the temptation of stereotype when writing about Scotland and, once again, I find myself appreciating their grit, hard work, endeavour and commitment. To be fair, they deserved something from the game but it was stupidity that undid them. They just don’t have that edge or talent in the side to unlock or change a game so, for me, they’ve got a tough three games ahead. Scotland versus Italy is looking every inch the wooden spoon decider. Cue the ‘Jocks’ to beat England!
Returning to my theme, yellow is indeed the colour for me as I prepare to head off to join Lawrence Dallaglio on his fundraising Cycle Slam. I’m going to beat the big guy to the Maillot Jaune (uphill at least) and there is absolutely no doubt that punishment is the game! I’m joining for the 472 miles from Nice to Paris and, although it may be pretty, it’s certainly not clever.
If you’d like to follow the adventure, you can do so at http://www.dallagliocycleslam.com and, more importantly, if you can spare a couple of quid, it would be tremendously appreciated by us and the whole team at Sport Relief. Please visit my fundraising page at http://www.justgiving.com/riggers7 for more details.
So, it’s off to France for me and five days in the saddle. Here’s looking forward to another big Six Nations weekend when I’m back. A la prochaine!
Strike rate: 4 from 6. Back in the game!
Interesting news that Christian Candy’s CPC Group has sold its Westminster headquarters on propertyweek.com today.
This signals the start of a momentous year for the Candys after an annus horribilis in 2009.
This started with them exiting Noho Square, continued with a monumental bust up with their Qatari partners at Chelsea Barracks and ended with continuing problems in the USA.
I caught up with Nick Candy on Wednesday night at the opening of `21’, the Candy & Candy-designed extension to Home House, the private members club on London’s Portman Square.
He seemed chirpy enough, but the real test will come from April when sales are resumed at CPC’s remaining flagship project, One Hyde Park.
Half of this was sold in the boom, but how will the other half fare in the bust?
On the plus side, this will still, undoubtedly, be the number one address for the super-rich in London.
Timing may well have overtaken location in some property people’s priority list, but you cannot argue with Knightsbridge and views over Hyde Park.
The challenges will be the £5,000 per sq ft price, but again, what’s a few million to the super-rich.
Residential experts see the challenges as the layout of the apartments, which to some lack the flexibility to provide accommodation for the super-rich’s staff.
And the design of One Hyde Park is also seen as heavy and imposing by some.
Whatever – Nick Candy has other things to look forward to: he told me he is one of the 600 people who have paid $200,000 each to take a flight on the new Virgin Galactic service.
Nought to the speed of sound in 5.7 seconds, outside the earth’s atmosphere for 10 minutes and weightlessness for five.
What’s your idea of the ideal holiday this year?
Let me know by replying to this blog.
The Baptism of Fire is Upon Us
It all starts with a toast. A toast to wish us well on our trip, but also a toast that comprised of two bottles of vodka kindly brought round by our Ozzie friend Justin (fixed everything for us, not just the booze).
We approached the vodka with the same cavalier attitude that led us to this point in the first place, and promptly finished it, regardless of it being the night before our departure. At 3am during this process, it was decreed that it was necessary to visit the Pyramids (other and incorrect side of town) at 6am the next day before we set off (for the all important photo). We managed the pyramids (big!) with a kip on the way back, which is when things started to inevitably go wrong. We packed our bikes (for the first time...error) and set off via Justin's place. At this point, in my eagerness to leave, I fell of and broke both my pannier and my saddle (its only right that I should live up to my reputation as a calamity from the start). We finally set off at 2pm (not the 10am planned) and headed off 8 miles in the wrong direction...oops. We finished the day having done 20 miles, not 60, and camped by a power station...delightful. My advice to anyone would be to leave the firewater alone the night before a 7 to 8 thousand mile cycle ride. However, things are going to go wrong, so we might as well get used to it.
Five days later and it is starting to dawn on me quite what I have signed up for. We get up at 6am and cycle all day with the odd stop for water, camping at dusk in whatever hovel seems most suitable (the second night was possibly also used for the local fisherman to relieve themselves and was right next to a main road...nice).
Secondly, the desert is a pain in the backside. I imagined the road next to the Red Sea to be a combination of beautiful coastline combined with rolling picturesque dunes. Something out of Laurence of Arabia if you will. Its not! Its a dusty hilly barren lifeless wasteland with only bizarre half built holiday homes to look at (for who? Egyptian economy booming?). In the middle of the day it is 40 degrees and inevitably very sunny (my hands have been decimated). We clocked 92 miles on day 3, only to be reduced to around 55 for the last two thanks to a strong headwind (apparently good for kitesurfing, and we are reliably informed it normally blows to the south 99% of the time...the Gods are clearly against us). Finally the bikes weigh at least as much as me and act as a bit of a sail. Riding it is like trying to coerse a stubborn donkey forward with nothing but a shrivelled carrot as an incentive.
We averaged 9 miles an hour today....we may as well run. Admittedly, nobody said it was going to be easy.....and the fact we have to do 5 more big days to catch the ferry to Sudan on time may break us....but I don't think so. We are having beers this evening to help endorse this belief.
So Team Trevor (named after Lindseys late father) is working out really well. I am trying to work out my role in the team. Duncan combines vast bike and mechanical knowledge (and useless knowledge) with a purile sense of humour (very necessary when put together in such close quarters). John speaks a little arabic, is adept at haggling and is also a giant (so noones going to mess). Lindsey is like a chesire cat who everyone warms to, and as a female attracts a lot of attention (some good, some bad). I have established that I am the best at opening tins with a pen knife. Very important!The 3 boys are sharing two 3 man tents which seems unneccesary but is actually great in terms of having some space to organise our tonnes of stuff. We take turns in going solo in the gentleman's tent (I don't know why its called that?).
Hold the phone, the Egyptians are actually pretty cool. Bar most shopkeepers trying to rip us off (we are getting wiser to this, plus bartering is tediously part of their culture), we have experienced incredible kindness from all sorts.
Yesterday, after struggling all day in the wind on only a pack of biscuits with water rapidly running out and mood and sugar levels at a real low (there are no shops in the desert....only the odd modern day oasis that sells Coke (great), Sprite (great) and biscuits (magic)), we finally arrived at an aforementioned oasis where a lady took one look at us (sweaty dirty vagabonds) and gave us bread, cheese, eggs, lettuce, bananas and oranges. Incredible! We then bought a huge cheap dinner on top of that. Energy for all this cycling has become number two priority...and dinner each night (rice, curry sauce, tuna) tastes like God himself cooked it.
We are currently in Hurghada (Russian/German/Slavic tourist destination....lots of fat people) staying in an appartment (luxury..has beds) where we have washed our clothes and had showers (more luxury...our clothes are beyond comprehension...and its week one). We have five days to get to Aswan (350 miles) which is going to be tough. We are all starting to feel the strains on our muscles and these saddles are something else entirely. My bum feels like pinata at a jewish child's bar mitzva.
Here's a picture of Lindsey just after she woke up this morning....looks a bit like Bubba from Forrest Gump.
Anyway, thats all from me. Despite the hardship, I"m having a ball. Life has been reduced to water, food, good and bad camp spots, and saddle sores....oh and sun (@#%#*&$!!!!)...I'd make a better eskimo.
Ten four, over and out. Next update possibly in a week....but who knows. We have a few contacts along the way, but if anyone knows anyone who might want to give us a good spot to camp we would be very grateful. And keep the sponsorship coming. Almost 10%. See this page
Ps. This last photo is a delight
This is the most common response I receive from Investors Chronicle readers whenever we run an expose on buy-to-let property clubs.
With the FSA’s verdict on whether the buy-to-let mortgage market should be regulated nearing its conclusion, landlords are understandably angry that they face further box-ticking at the expense of an irresponsible minority.
But until you have actually experienced the sophisticated patter of the salesmen who preside over such events, reserve your judgement.
Over the years, I have attended dozens of seminars peddling get-rich-quick property dreams. There are some startling similarities.
All promise “financial freedom” is in wait for those who sign up to purchase old dumps, variously described as “bargain properties”, “BMVs” or “below market value” (often shorthand for impossible to sell).
Another beloved phrase is “passive income” that can be creamed off the tenants. Participants are often told; “Why worry about taking out a mortgage when someone else is paying it for you?”
A key reason to worry could be the bridging loan the seminar company’s mortgage brokers suggest you should use in lieu of a deposit (a common seminar trick which verges on the borders of legality if not properly declared to a mortgage lender).
Worried about the impact of negative equity on your twin property loans? The presenters usually flash up a slide showing how much property prices have risen since 1945 (even with the recent drop, this still looks like the side of a mountain). There is seldom any discussion of risks to the downside.
Borrowing money is referred to as “financing” – the word “debt” is never uttered. Interestingly, I’ve never heard the word “landlord” used either. This conveys a sense of duty and responsibility (not to mention hard work!) which doesn’t fit with the dream of life on easy street.
At some of the seminars I attended last year, I was convinced that firms had placed plants in the audience.
One woman stood up to say “thank you” to the presenter, as the six tumbledown houses she’d bought in a rough suburb of Buffalo USA were making a good rental yield let out to welfare claimants.
She didn’t mention that the properties were uninsurable, which is why they had to be bought for cash.
Sadly, many in life’s last chance saloon go along to these clubs in the hope of extracting themselves from indebtedness. I once heard a desperate-looking woman and her husband plead: “Let us pay for the course after we’ve done our first property deal?” The answer was no, so they paid the first instalment on a credit card.
Making your excuses to leave is not easy – there are often people waiting outside the seminar room ready to accost you, and lead you back inside.
Over the years, I have perfected my exit – I say I’m just nipping out to the ladies, and then make a dash for it.
If only it was so easy for the rest of them.