Philip Barnes – Blog


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We recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of our Newcastle office opening with around 250 clients and friends. Sarah Green, Regional Director of the CBI kindly said some nice words about the business.

It then fell to me to express the appropriate thanks and reflect on 20 years of NLP helping to deliver development, regeneration and jobs in the North East.

As I thought about what to say one thing that really struck me was the laughs we have had along the way. Coming from Teesside and having previously worked in Glasgow, Manchester and the East Midlands I can honestly confirm the Geordie sense of humour is definitely not a myth. In my view it actually helps to drive business in the region. It’s so much easier to get stuff done with a smile on your face rather than the egos and posturing sometimes seen in other regions.

My other key reflection was the amazing clients I have worked for.

Undoubtedly the best was Chas Chandler. A giant of a man in every respect, he provided dozens of great memories. Our second ‘briefing’ meeting with him ended at 6am and enabled me to bring the milk in as I got home. Unfortunately for some unknown reason I dropped one of the bottles.

He also delivered the most delicious put down I have ever received. Our role was to help him build a series of music arenas across the UK so we diligently did some research on best practice examples in the US. After proudly describing in detail the acoustic performance of the Philadelphia Arena Chas simply said, “It’s OK Phil, I played there twice with The Animals”. Ouch.

Another great client was Jim Cookson of European Land. He was the man who came up with the idea for Newcastle Great Park. Unfortunately, as with Chas, he didn’t live to see his dreams fulfilled. For everyone who worries about a lack of ambition, Jim probably had your share.

During the early 90s his strategy was to send a team of us to virtually every city in the UK to identify where, how and why a major city expansion should take place. Thirty years on at least five of his ideas are being built.

He was a true visionary and like many developers he was a man very concerned about his image-introducing me to the concept of the ‘council car’. We used to go to meetings with council officers and members and I was always impressed that such a successful guy drove a humble Mondeo. Only later when I saw him turn up to meet his private sector pals in a spanking Bentley did I understand the game.

One of the perks of my job is the opportunity to see different cities and regions. Although one of my guys wasn’t saying that at Aberdeen airport a few years ago when immediately after take off he noticed that a plane engine was on fire. A croaky captain announced there was a technical fault as flames lapped at the window. Too right there was.

Nor was I too chuffed to be apprehended and grilled for an hour when my site visit in Fife strayed too close to an MOD base. Even more embarrassingly the client was The Scottish Office who were obviously nonplussed about having to confirm to MOD my role and lack of connections to Al Qaeda.

But overall, like any business activity, it’s all about the people. The ones we work with and for. Nearly always fun, stimulating and challenging. I really hope I will still be dabbling about in planning and development for another 20 years.

Author: philipbarnesblog

Group Land and Planning Director for Barratt Developments PLC. FRTPI, FRICS

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