How long have you worked at Hargreaves Land and can you describe your role within the firm?
I joined Hargreaves Land in 2019, working with the Scottish Regional Team at our new Glasgow office. I lead on the acquisition of new opportunities for commercial development, strategic land promotion and joint ventures. I also provide land management support for the Hargreaves Land estate and delivery of existing projects.
What have been the biggest changes in the property industry since you started?
A great deal has changed since I started working in this sector over 30 years ago. The environmental, technical and regulatory demands are certainly tougher today and political devolution in Scotland has encouraged regulatory divergence with the rest of the UK.
Today the planning system can often be paralysed by over-analysis and becoming increasingly expensive to navigate. Demands for higher statutory fees, developer contributions and planning gain to provide affordable housing, education, infrastructure have soared since I started out in this sector. In my view the planning system too often acts as a break on investment and unduly burdensome, particularly so for small and medium sized businesses that cannot easily bear these costs.
There is also a pattern of rising environmental, climate and community-based activism and protest. The reflex to oppose and object to new proposed development is not always merited nor proportionate. Public antipathy towards new development is an unhealthy trend that has grown out of control.
Going forward, I hope that our country will invest heavily in infrastructure, become more self-reliant and build more resilience into the supply chain. At Hargreaves we are promoting several large development sites with opportunities for production, storage and distribution and we are actively pursuing new opportunities for development and investment around the country.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy sourcing new development opportunities, pitching for and closing land deals and making development happen.
What projects are you currently working on?
The promotion of St Ninians in Fife, a large lakeside development opportunity with significant leisure development potential. I have sourced residential and commercial development opportunities in Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway that we will either promote and sell or develop.
What has been your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is the self-build of the house I now live in. It’s not exactly a “Grand Design” in the Kevin McCloud style because it’s not built out of recycled tyres, cob or straw bales but my wife and I invested a lot of emotional collateral in the design and construction of our family home. It took a lot of effort and sacrifice, but we made a success of it.
Describe your dream holiday
I would take an extended holiday to visit Tasmania. I worked in Sydney early in my career and I travelled widely around Australia, but I never managed to get to Tasmania so I would like to remedy that.
If you could be anyone from any time period who would it be and why?
I would nominate Private Henry Tandey. I only read about this remarkable British soldier quite recently. He served during World War I and in 1918, reportedly spared the life of a German soldier who was later identified as Hitler. I think this might be a version of an urban myth, but many lives would have been saved and I think the world would now be a better place if he had acted differently.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself that people may not know
I worked for the Crown on the remote Island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. On St Helena, I lived in an asbestos prefab house, originally built for spies. It was located just a few doors down from Longwood House, where the Emperor Napoleon was exiled and eventually died.