Jonathon Seddon: Why Choose Nottingham?
31st May 2018
We talk to our Director Jonathon Seddon about the city of Nottingham, and what he sees as its vision for the future.
When Did You Begin Your Career in Nottingham?
I started my surveying career in Newark back in the early 90s, before spreading my wings to move to Sheffield to work for a national retailer. The promise of extensive travel (in my 1.4 litre Rover 200) sold me, and in that regard, the job was pretty good, as it meant there weren’t many places in the UK that I didn’t get to see. It also meant that I was able to gain a perspective on just where Nottingham sits in the firmament.
I joined NG Chartered Surveyors back in 2002, so I’ve been working in Nottingham for more than 16 years.
What Initially Attracted You to the City?
Whilst I was born in Yorkshire, at the age of 5 I moved to Southwell, so for me, Nottingham has always been the “bright lights”. Finding an opportunity to work for one of Nottingham’s most established surveying firms, and in turn shaping its future was a huge attraction to me.
Since Living Here, Has Nottingham Changed Much?
Honestly, since living here, I don’t think its changed enough, and that’s resulted in a lot of missed opportunities. Not many cities have such a large open area in the centre – Nottingham has the market square, and so much could have been made with it, with open air restaurants, cafes and bars.
The Council House is a fantastic backdrop, and the fountains are a step in the right direction, yet it’s surrounded by some truly awful buildings. And why they chose to not retain the toilets, I’ll never understand! Whoever made the decision to utilise cheap faux Victorian street lighting should take a good long look at themselves in the mirror. Why look to the past when the future’s much more exciting?
Another crying shame has been the two major retail schemes in the city – the Victoria and Broadmarsh Centres – falling into the same ownership. The day that happened was the day where the owners could relax and do nothing. Before that, it was like a Mexican standoff, with one of them pulling the trigger on building a scheme to attract the world’s most major brands (an Apple Store anyone?).
As it stands, despite having had a recent revamp, the Victoria Centre is looking desperately old fashioned, and the Broadmarsh redevelopment is so far removed from the initial and bold concept that it’s a shadow of what it could have been.
What Is/Are the Biggest Challenges We Face as a City, Compared to Both Our Regional “Rivals” and Nationally?
I love my city, but it’s not without its frustrations.
The retail offer, as I mentioned above, is poor. Whereas Derby and Leicester have large city centre retail schemes full of the tenants and brands that shoppers want, we’re left lagging behind. When I was growing up, Nottingham was the place everyone flocked to on a Saturday for their recreational shop, irrespective of whether you lived in Nottingham, Derby or Leicester. Now, that’s no longer the case, and to be honest I can’t see it changing.
Another huge bugbear, has been the loss of office space to student accommodation. Sure, we should be proud of our two universities, both which have made huge benefits to our local economy. Yet, local employers can’t capitalise on this stream of talent graduating from them every year, because we don’t have the business parks or grade A city centre offices for them to work in. In the latter of the case, that’s mostly down to the fact that many office buildings have been converted to student schemes.
Whilst I’m not bemoaning the developers who have rightly seized the opportunity – particularly with the advent of Permitted Development which relaxed the planning controls – I do have to question the long term strategy of the city council. When they moved into Loxley House, they could have entered JV schemes with developers on the buildings they vacated to facilitate the construction of new office buildings.
The problem we’re now faced with is that whereas a 1960s office building would have eventually become economically obsolete and in turn, cleared for development; instead they’ve been converted to student accommodation. That means these sites now have 40-50 more years of life in them, so the opportunity to do something with them has been lost.
Whilst this loss of office stock to alternate uses isn’t unique to Nottingham, the fact that we have more students compared to other cities, means that the need for student accommodation is greater, which means more buildings are fair game for student developers.
For Nottingham to thrive, it’s crucial that it has a great city centre. For that to happen, there needs to be various elements that create a harmonious whole and right now, I don’t think we have the recipe quite right.
How Long Is Your Daily Commute, and How Do You Get into the City?
Only four minutes!
At NG, we made the decision to move out of the city centre five years ago, and we settled into our current Loughborough Road base in West Bridgford. The decision arose as the majority of our shareholding directors lived in West Bridgford, so losing the hassle of a thirty minute commute each side of the day was hugely appealing. It’s given us all more time at the coal face! Another attraction is Central Avenue – we regularly use the cafes and restaurants for meetings with clients.
I have a young family, and my wife works in Leicester, so I’m regularly dashing to grab my children from after school clubs. To lose the spectre of a large “late collection fine” works for me.
Finally, If You Had a Blank Canvas, What Would You like to See Happen in the Next 12 Months?
I’ve written several versions of an answer to this question before discretion got the better of me and I deleted them! Let’s leave it with this: I’d like a political champion for the city of Nottingham to come to the fore with an inspirational and aspirational vision.