Life & Culture

I'm looking at car parks for new ideas


After a flurry of activity at the beginning of the year, my sense is that the property industry has quietened down again.

It could be post-election lethargy, the prospect of a long-awaited summer, the World Cup or, maybe, most of the population is too busy queuing up for iPads to do any business. It's probably that the market can't take its finger off the pause button because the banks still aren't lending in any meaningful way.

Whatever it is, there is always plenty to do and I'm still in the hot seat and making the best of things. With a first-rate team around me I've got the time to look for new opportunities and go out talking to people. The most important thing is to keep your eyes open.

At the moment, I'm not cycling as much as I used to so I'm walking more and I've become a big fan of buses. Sitting on one of those big red beasts allows me to make good use of my Freedom Pass and gives me thinking time. I also notice things.

Recently I noticed that my journey times seem to be getting shorter. There was a time when it took ages to drive to the West End and when you got there you couldn't find a meter or the car parks were full. Not any more. First of all, anyone with a bike (and fit enough to use it) is cycling, which is a good thing for them and for the planet. Then the fortune you have to pay these days for parking, petrol and the Congestion Charge puts people off. As a result, there just aren't as many cars in London as there used to be. If it wasn't for the fact that the capital is forever being dug up to replace the sewers or gas pipes or Crossrail or whatever other reason, you could fly around in no time.

Anyway, it doesn't take an Einstein to work out that if there aren't as many cars, the car parks can't be doing too well, so I took a look and found that, as suspected, one or two are up for sale. So now I'm wondering what ideas people are going to come up with for alternative uses for these underground spaces that used to generate a healthy income. I'm having a good old think.

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