Who has the balls to back Nottingham?

30th July 2019

As a business community we should hang our collective heads in shame that Nottingham has once again been named the UK’s “poorest city” on a government list.

For-the fifth time in seven years, our city holds this unloved title, with the City Council once again sticking its head in the sand and blaming the “honour” on the fact that many of its affluent suburbs fall outside the city’s official boundaries.

And yet if the powers that be actually backed Nottingham it could be a totally different story. What the city needs to banish itself from this list is the ability to attract high value jobs so that those living in the city centre boost its earning power.

For the best part of a decade now the city has been flooded by student accommodation – much of which was sited in former Grade B office stock which was no longer attractive to employers and a large percentage actually owned by the city council! Under normal conditions, these buildings would have been demolished to make way for new Grade A office stock. However, the quick fix was in cheap student digs with a ready stream of occupants ready to move in and enjoy city centre living.

Over time, this meant that any large firm looking to relocate to Nottingham or open a new office have become starved of options, meaning, in turn, that jobs that would have come to the city centre have been lost to rival cities or to the outer boroughs. Bizarrely Our inward investment chiefs have made no secret of this fact.

Yes, city centre living is wildly popular for young professionals who want the benefits of city living on their doorstep. But without a major inward investment to offer them jobs, they will follow the money, leaving Nottingham fixed on top of the poorest city list.

We now have the frankly shocking move by Waitrose that it is selling its Wollaton supermarket to Lidl. If leafy Wollaton can’t support an upmarket brand such as Waitrose, then perhaps the city’s problems are deeper than at first thought.

In sporting terms it’s an easy concept to get your head around the phrase: “back yourself”. This applies to scoring a goal or a try, hitting a six, running a PB or winning a bike race – but in property terms maybe it’s a little harder to understand.

Cities need investment in infrastructure if they are to compete on a global scale. In Nottingham we have the success that is the rightly-lauded public transport system, but we need to go much further; we need to create buildings that the big companies want to locate themselves in.

Maybe, just maybe, the City Council is getting this message. There are encouraging signs of office activity around the Southside area – alongside huge residential schemes both being built or in the plannigng stages.

HMRC’s move into Unity Square could be the catalyst the city needs for a new wave of Grade A office development… or it could be a false dawn. Only time will tell if inward investment chiefs in Nottigham have the balls to back our city.

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