Richard Desmond is planning to Go Big on property after selling his Express newspaper interests to the owners of the Daily Mirror last week.

Peter Bill

The Northern & Shell boss has been casting for ideas to get him out of bed in the morning, says a source.

Last week, his wife Joy tweeted “retiring isn’t an option” for her 66-year-old husband and the man himself told the FT that he was still “a panther”.

Grrr… Desmond has levelled his 15-acre Westferry print works on the Isle of Dogs. Work on 722 homes and a 1,200-space secondary school is due to start next month. The preparatory work is done here. Where else?

Word is that Desmond would like to build an office tower. A slow-motion way to go mad or bust. Don’t do it, Richard. Stick to pushing a new version of a quiet idea you had in 2014.

Pw160218 richard desmond rexfeatures 9249187bm cred rex shutterstock

Richard Desmond reportedly wants to build an office tower

Source: rexfeatures 9249187bm cred rex shutterstock

In September that year, planning consultants DP9 and GM Real Estate put proposals to the City of London for tweaking planning guidance to allow for a major mixed-use scheme embracing the vile 110,000 sq ft Northern & Shell HQ at 10 Lower Thames Street as well as St Magnus House next door, an even uglier block if that’s possible. PLP Architecture even presented a masterplan. Since then, silence. Hark, is that a waking growl I hear?

Who is pushing what type of envelope?

Here is a question public sector planning officers should be unafraid to ask consultants, especially those who seem to be pushing the envelope a little too hard on behalf of clients. “How are you being paid?” Why? Because just before Christmas one well-known developer was looking for a gun for hire. Someone willing to push Westminster council into giving permission for something that really was pushing the envelope. Terms of engagement? Fee payable only on receipt of planning permission. Otherwise, nothing. Careful everyone.

FTSE fall raises wishful thinking test

Why was Göring convinced a looted painting he’d grabbed was by Vermeer? Because the Nazi leader wished it to be so. Not the usual spiel of after-dinner speakers. But Tim Harford, author of Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy, was demonstrating (complete with slides) the power of wishful thinking to a nonplussed black-tie crowd at the British Council for Offices annual dinner on 16 January. That day the FTSE 100 closed at 7,755.

Today, so many ideas born before the FTSE began to wobble look like wishful thinking. Plans set to be implemented seem risky a month on, don’t they? What to do? Postpone? Abandon? Plough on bravely? Take Tim’s advice. Ask yourself again how much wishful thinking, as opposed to hard facts, underlie the business case.

Oh… and in future make sure that every business proposal is looked at by at least two separate teams: those with self-interest in the project – and those without.

Mike Slade disembarks…

Mike Slade, 71, announced last week he was sailing away from Helical in May 2019 after 34 years. News that prompts a guilty thought. Did accepting a day out on his yacht summer after summer from the turn of the millennium crimp my critical instincts? Yes, probably. Not that Helical Bar (as was) made many mistakes. I recognised early on the dangers of boating adventures after spending March after March in Cannes. On one Gin Palace I was suddenly surrounded by scantily clad women and photographed at the express direction of the host. On another, a group of prostitutes sat glumly waiting for trade. On a third, I opened a cupboard in the WC looking for soap – to find a Costco-sized pack of prophylactics.

Mike Slade, Leopard yacht

Mike Slade’s Leopard yacht

Being hailed aboard Leopard in Southampton and offered a bacon roll before a spin to the Isle of Wight for a pub lunch was a temptation far harder to resist. Those who fail to resist temptation in Cannes are forever compromised. Those lucky enough to be tempted to the Isle of Wight by the prospect of a pint of Black Velvet and a pub lunch have simply been lucky enough to enjoy the company of a man whose richness of spirit uplifts all those he meets.

Time to navigate a straight course at Mipim

Delegates to Mipim next month will have been given a strict set of guidelines this year. Post-Presidents Club puritanism will be the rule. Question is: will “Cheshire’s Finest for discerning gentlemen” be putting temptation in the path of attendees? Mentioned only as a weak excuse to retell of the time about 10 years ago when I was sitting in the bar of the Carlton with Gary Murphy of Allsop. A buxom madam handed over her card, saying sweetly her Cheshire lasses “were £250 an hour, or part thereof”.

Peter Bill is a journalist and author of Planet Property