Monday, November 28, 2005

School for regeneration

Latest from Tom Bloxham, founder and face of regeneration-focused architects/developers Urban Splash - he's attempting to set up a good school in one of the group's current big projects:

He's noticed that once the people who buy his properties have children of school age, they sell up and move out to the suburbs in search of better quality education. So in Bloxham's latest project, a brand new district of Manchester, to be called 'New Islington', which he is building in partnership with high profile architect Will Allsop and the local authority, he thinks a good school would come in handy.
He has researchers gathering evidence about whether local people would be less likely to flee the city centre if there were better schools available and plans to send the resulting dossier to anyone who might be able to help.
But so far he's had little help from the powers-that-be, with local education officials simply saying, 'but there are no children in the area'.

More from the Observer story.

The basic issue, that too many urban residential developments attract a very lopsided demographic, isn't new - it was being talked about when I was covering the Manchester regen scene for Insider six years ago (see, for example, this). So it's good to see attention finally being paid by the private sector, even if the public sector's response is seriously disappointing. It does seem an obvious choice for one of Blair's City Academy schemes.

Is something similar planned for the group's big projects this side of the Pennines - Lister Mills in Bradford and the infamous Park Hill flats in Sheffield? Be interesting to see the council responses if so.


Friday, November 11, 2005

At the Bevvies

Ventured down to London this week for the annual backslapping of the BVCA Private Equity & Venture Capital Journalist of the Year Awards (and they really need to find a snappier name than that - I suggest 'the Bevvies'). I was shortlisted again in the Specialist category, for the piece on the government-backed RVCFs for Corporate Financier. Didn't win this time, but enjoyed a small degree of reflected glory as the Specialist award went to Grant Murgatroyd for a piece in the same title, and the Outstanding Contribution gong went to Ross Butler of Real Deals (for whom I've written many features over the past five years, and am currently putting together a particurly exciting piece on trends in transaction insurance). Trebles all round! Or, to be accurate, an uncertain number of pints at a local hostelry afterwards.

It might however be a sign of a continuing depression in the PE market that the winners just took home a chunky perspex trophy for their efforts. When the awards began at the turn of the century, winners were heaped with DVD players and digital cameras. By 2002, when I did win, they were onto the perspex doorstoppers. No bad thing, really - when the BVCA and the other sponsoring VCs start dishing out the consumer electronics again, it'll probably be time to start muttering about irrational exuberance.

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