Category Archive: Uncategorised

Welcome to “the Future”

Whilst reflecting on the new year ahead, a conversation with my 10-year-old daughter got me thinking. According to the ONS life expectancy calculator, statistically there is a very good chance that my children’s generation will still be around in the year 2100.

That took me straight back to my own childhood and wondering what life would be like in the year 2000, my young imagination running overdrive over living in “the future” – travelling by flying car and the domestic chores done by robot. The reality is that we are now 20 years beyond the millennium and despite being a ‘space date’, life in 2020 does feel remarkably similar (including having to unload the dishwasher) to an observer from 40 years ago.

However, events towards the end of the last decade precipitated some market changes to the point where they are now a reality for our region, our business and our clients.

Commercial property wise, we have seen an uneven trend to the flow of high street bank valuations during the Brexit epoch. There is a significant amount of alternative investment being placed, including joint ventures and use of private equity, to deliver some great projects across the region.

We are starting to see some output from the strategic planning and investment by the Combined Authorities and Mayoral posts. Our commercial property team have recently been appointed as property managers for the commercial property at Teesside International Airport, under the progressive alliance between the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Stobart Group, one of a number of exciting initiatives driving commercial development and job creation in the north east.

The development land market has proved stable and we saw a number of completions of significant residential development sites over the past year. We secured planning consent and sold land for 200 units at Killingworth to Avant Homes, as well as completions to Bellway and Barratt Homes. We are seeing Housing Associations being an increasingly active contributor in the market.

On the planning front, we are helping a number of clients ready themselves for future Local Plan reviews. The timing of reviews is interesting, with three combined Authorities now on-line and with ambitious growth plans. Our combined offering of planning and valuation expertise alongside market knowledge and experience of setting up delivery partnerships is in strong demand to demonstrate deliverability.

Regional house builders and self–build plots still feature importantly in the north east market. Figures from the Federation of Master Builder’s House Builders’ 2019 Survey indicated that over 30% of SME builders still report availability of finance as a significant constraint. On the back of confidence in stability of north east markets (and with markets in the south suffering), alongside low interest rates we are seeing successful private investment models and specialist funding starting to scale up to larger sites.

Our Northumberland estate agency team continues to fly, with sales prime locations selling very strongly and performance up a further 20% year on year. Quality property continues to be a strong draw for re-investment of north-east business wealth.

Technology is changing the way we interact with each other and our clients. However, all of the successful trends we are seeing in the region are as a result of human interaction and initiative.

As a business we continue to adapt and respond to opportunities, using technology to build on client relationships rather than replace them. Whilst we may be living in “the future”, most business is still done through face to face meetings and with a cup of coffee (even if we don’t yet have a robot to wash the cup). The same will apply in 2100.

Planning Permission: achieving a positive outcome against officer advice

Our team of Planning Consultants have been working hard to seek planning permission for five new dwellings near Christon Bank in Northumberland; the site has now been approved by the local area council despite being initially recommended for refusal by planning officers.

Planning Permission

About the site

The site in question is currently a stable block and arena on a farm surrounded by existing dwellings, just 400 metres from the village of Christon Bank; however, amongst six other reasons, the site was recommended for refusal on sustainability grounds (referring to its open countryside location).

Gaining approval

After initial recommendation for refusal, Craig Ross, a Partner at George F. White, addressed committee and requested they visit the site to see its close proximity to Christon Bank in order to show that the site wasn’t functionally or physically isolated, therefore making it a sustainable location for new development.

The local area council then went against initial recommendation of planning officers and granted planning permission on the condition that more information is submitted regarding:

  • Noise;
  • Contamination;
  • Heritage;
  • Odour;
  • and Drainage

This is fantastic news as it is typical that a landowner / developer seeking planning permission would have to supply this information prior to the certainty of a positive outcome, thus saving on upfront costs.

What does this mean for other landowners?

If you’re a landowner with land adjacent to, but not necessarily in, a settlement or have been disheartened by prior planning permission refusals due to initial officer feedback then now might be the time to try again for seek planning permission.

Please get in touch with out planning teams today:
Alnwick – 01665 603231
Wolsingham – 01388 527966
Bedale – ​01677 425301

EU Departure: is your business currently in a position to remain successful?

With our departure from the EU, one of the biggest changes in history for UK agriculture, on the horizon, Elliot Taylor asks, is your business currently in a position to remain successful and achieve its objectives?

Exit EU

In an uncertain political environment, as it is in the UK right now, it’s increasingly difficult to predict the future impact our exit from the EU will have on business.  However, instead of contemplating our departure from the EU and tormenting ourselves about the impact it could have on the rural economy, I believe it’s time to put measures in place to ensure, whatever happens, your rural businesses is as resilient as possible to weather any potential ‘Brexit storm’.

I have written previously that understanding your business and exploring all opportunities for growth is vital.  You must ask questions like – What opportunities are there to make a change, invest or secure long-term business growth? What government or grant funding is available? What will be the impact from new Government policy and how can I benefit from it?  If I want to sell, what is my asset worth, what does the market look like and when is the best time? And, how do I better utilise my available assets now?

There’s a lot of information and advice available, and due to ever changing policies, requirements and eligibility rules it can be puzzling at the best of times. Our team of expert farm business consultants, planning consultants, rural surveyors and project managers have been working closely with clients over the past 18 months to help them understand their exposure to the loss of subsidy, to review their business assets and to secure their future financial stability and growth.  Our teams have a wealth of knowledge and are committed to helping clients achieve personal and business goals whilst seizing all available opportunities.

For example, in early January, several LEADER funds reopened; providing another chance for rural businesses to access government funding before we leave the EU. Despite the application window being desperately small, many of our clients were already in a position to consider applying for these grants.

In February, we will be holding a series of seminars discussing the opportunities for rural business to improve performance and reduce risk within these uncertain times. Events will take place between the 18th and 26th February in Duns, Alnwick, Corbridge, Sedgefield, Northallerton and Pocklington. Our team will be on hand to provide advice on how you can maximise your assets, grasp those opportunities and of course will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

For more information on our seminars and how to sign up, click here.

Celebrating Success: 40 years of business diversification

2018 was a year of success for George F. White as the firm strengthened its foothold in the North East commercial property sector, celebrated a year in its Newcastle City Centre office and expanded its range of services. Richard Garland is Head of Tyne and Wear at George F. White and spearheading the development of the business’ on-going diversification from its rural roots across the urban sectors. Here, he looks back at the business’ journey and forward to the future as the firm gets ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary.


“George F. White was formed by George White (who remains as Partner in the Firm) in 1979 in the market town of Alnwick; the business began as a small team of rural consultants, an industry we are still proud to serve comprehensively to this day. As George’s, team grew, so did our service offering of specialist services. Thanks to the foundations George laid, the business has been able to diversify with notable success; a journey we continue on today. Over ten years ago, we took the decision to invest in our planning and development team, they now represent over a quarter of our business, with success being driven by high quality specialist advice. This is a model we are now replicating within our commercial team. Already covering commercial property valuations, landlord and tenant and agency services alongside an energy consultancy (including commercial EPC’s), this year we have added building surveying to our offering through the appointment of James Cullen, who recently joined us as Head of Building Surveying. This has been a successful move and in line with our plan, we are looking to expand the team in the New Year.

Our Newcastle city centre office is now an evolving hub for our planning and development, lettings, energy and commercial property teams; in 2019, we plan to further strengthen our presence in the urban market, both in Newcastle and further afield.

Alongside investment in our Tyne and Wear offering, we have been working hard on our strategic expansion plans and have identified potential to grow turnover by 25% over the next three years. That includes significant investment in the business’ systems, offices and flexible working systems.”

Speaking about the thought behind plans to invest, Richard said: “We have a clear plan as to where the Partners and team leaders wish to take the business over the next three years. At the heart of that is a focus on our client care and the quality of our output; the way we communicate with our clients and our colleagues has changed beyond recognition during my time at the business. We have significant investment planned over the next year; alongside the focus on quality, we are also modernising our whole business, including our offices, providing a high quality environment for our clients and staff, whose needs have also changed. As part of our strategic investment, technology will allow all of our staff to work more flexibly and deliver a higher quality client service. This business is built around succession and the Millennial generation will be the key to our future success. Rather than resisting change we are proud to be embracing new technology in the constant drive to make us stand out.”