Why Nottingham? Nottingham stalwart, Andrew Hunt, gives his verdict

In our June edition of the hugely popular “Why Nottingham” series, NPS chats to Andrew Hunt, Commercial Finance Consultant, specialising in Property Finance, at Sterling Capital Reserve Limited.

As a Nottingham local, Andrew gives his overview of the city, on what’s good and more importantly what could be done better.

1. What first attracted you to Nottingham?

Nottingham has always been my home. I lived and went to school in Calverton, a village about 8 miles outside the centre. A trip into “Town” was always a big event when I was younger, especially to visit the cinema or for shopping.

The bustle of the City was always attractive to me. As I got older, I started to enjoy the thriving social side and could be found in Isabella’s Night Club and Madison’s (for those old enough to remember!!). The Royal Centre opened in 1982, which meant that bands of the 80’s could perform in Nottingham and made it even more attractive to me.

Nottingham had always been historically famous for Robin Hood, Lace Manufacture, Boots the Chemist, and Raleigh bikes. During my early working career through the late seventies and early eighties, sport is what put the City on the map, through the exploits of Nottingham Forest, Torvill and Dean and the building of the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrpont in 1986.

2. When did you first start to work in the City?

I left school at 16 and started working for Barclays Bank at the Old Market Square Branch (now a pub!!) in 1979. My banking career of 28 years, took me to Beeston, Mansfield, Burton on Tent and Birmingham, managing a general portfolio of Clients. I returned to work in Nottingham as Commercial Finance Broker, specialising in property funding in 2007.

3. How has it changed during your time here?

I am now 57 so have seen many changes to the City. The first key one I remember was the building of the QMC and its opening in 1977. This not only added a first class medical provision but also a teaching hospital and medical research facility.

On the back of this Nottingham has continued to develop its Life Sciences industry at pace, heavily contributing towards the £300m sector value to the Midlands as a whole. This has attracted many businesses such Sygnature Discovery, who work with global pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Glaxco SmithKline. Sygnature, along with XenoGesis and Aurelia Bioscience form part of 70 biotech and pharmaceutical business, based at BioCity in Nottingham, provide much needed employment.

In the current COVID 19 pandemic we have heard on the daily briefings from the Health Secretary that heavy support is being given by Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University with testing equipment and mapping of test results.

Improvement to our sporting stadia has been prolific, with new stands being built at the City Ground Meadow Lane and Trent Bridge. The knocking down of the old Ice Stadium and the building of the Motorpoint Arena, not only allowed increased capacity for the Nottingham Panthers, but provided an alternative venue for touring bands and solo artists. The addition of updated restaurants, bars and a multiplex cinema at the Cornerhouse complex has made the City more attractive for weekend visitors. How we miss these in the current environment.

Infrastructure has been enhanced considerably over the years, with the building of the Tram System, the Robin Hood Railway, and the much needed widening of the A453, making it easier to get into Nottingham. We have seen the building of a new railway station at Nottingham Parkway and an upgrade to the Midland Station, neglected for many years and hardly an inspiration when visitors first arrived in the City.

For the future we have the upgrade to the Broadmarsh site with a new Central Library and car park. Added to this will be the new cinema, bars and restaurants along with retail outlets. This will improve what visitors see when they first arrive and change Nottingham from a visit for the day to a weekend, thereby boosting the local economy.

4. What is/are the biggest challenges we face as a City compared to our rivals

Nottingham needs to build on the recent changes we have seen, as we are playing catch up with Derby and Leicester in terms of activity and facilities. However we need to do this collaboratively on an East Midland front working with Derby, Leicester and also Northampton as part of the Midlands Engine offensive to see changes.

Transport link wise to get tourists and commuters into the City, Nottingham still has its challenges.  The lack of a main line railway station has its hindrances and other than buses there is no link from East Midlands Airport to the City Centre. Nottingham Parkway would have benefited from a tram link into the City, but I am fully aware of the considerable additional cost for this.

HS2 and the station at Toton Sidings is a long way off but what links are being put in place to bring passengers into the City? There is the tram stop at Bardill’s Island – is an extension possible?

A high-end conference centre with a larger capacity than the one at Nottingham University is required. This would bring in much needed income for our Hotel, Restaurant and Retail Sector, when conferences are set over a number of days. This will underpin existing employment and create new jobs for the service sector.

Attracting Hi Tec, Manufacturing and Service Companies to Nottingham is crucial, in providing employment. We need to be at least on the shortlist of businesses looking to set up new sites.

If this is within the Nottingham City boundaries, the Parking Levy could be a hurdle compared to our rivals. Therefore making sites available outside the City boundaries needs to be considered.

5. How long is your commute into the City and what is your method of Transport?

Our offices are based in Edwalton, which is an 8-mile commute from my home in Wollaton. I therefore use my car otherwise I would need to catch 2 buses. Not ideal from a carbon footprint point of view but I sometimes have to visit clients at short notice, so my car is essential.

In the current COVID-19 world we live in, I am working from home and make use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom to undertake meetings. This could be the new norm and can see post COVID-19, these practices will continue.

If I go into the City at weekends, I use Nottingham City Transport buses, which provide an excellent service from Wollaton. NCT is a credit to the City.

6. Where are your favourite places to eat and drink for business and leisure time?

The food at the Maharajas Retreat on Maid Marian Way is excellent and a great venue for the Property Face to Face networking group, of which I am a member.

At the weekends I like the Canning Circus area to meet up with friends in the Hand and Heart for food and drink plus the, Sir John Borlaise Warren and the Organ Grinder are great for real ale lovers.  Food wise in the City my preferences are Dino’s on Warser Gate and Fothergill’s opposite the Castle.

7. Finally if you had a blank canvas, what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?

I am writing this in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic, but assuming this passes, my thoughts are similar to the challenges that Nottingham faces, albeit more than 12 month projects.

Therefore, in the short term I would like to see the construction of the new Broadmarsh complex continued and improve the entrance to the City. To proceed with the regeneration of the Boots Island site to create office space, a hotel and retail units, thereby creating further job opportunities.

Finally to see collaboration with our East Midlands neighbours to see new jobs created across the region, which will be required post COVID-19 as many jobs will be lost as businesses close during the lockdown.