Friday 21 October, 9am, Titanic Room: A white-faced Sporty Girl slides copies of a development appraisal for 60 flats in north London around the table. The spreadsheet, for a Beirut-based client of GBH, shows a GDV of £32m, including the usual 20% developer margin. 

Agent P

Costs, including £2m for financing, tot up to £26m – so a residual land value of £6m. 

She picks up her copy and rips it into tiny pieces. “A year to get planning, another year to get the S106 agreed, then three months to get the bloody landowner to agree £6m was all we were going to pay. Back-to-back land sale and construction contracts due to be signed yesterday. Lebanese restaurant booked for celebration tonight. Gone! Two years’ work – gone!”

“Steady, Sporty,” I say. “Steady!” she snorts, strewing around copies of a second spreadsheet marked ‘After F Kwasi’. “Look,” she says pointing wildly, “GDV cut by £6m to £26m to reflect forecast of 20% price falls. What do you get? Land worth a big fat zero! Not to mention the £2m increase in interest costs that cuts deep into the 20% margin. We’re screwed!”

Not my strong point, development appraisals. “Does that mean everyone’s screwed?” I ask. Her eyes roll towards the ceiling. “Duh!”