Homes, Holidays and Hell’s Angels

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

Dystopic Dave  In a speech this week in Vienna, David Davis has downplayed suggestions that we are entering a downhill race towards a deregulated ‘Mad Max style’ dystopia. Whether this will be more disappointing to would-be Hell’s Angels, or to those for whom OJEU has become the bane of their lives for the past 20 years, is debatable. Particularly, still on the ‘Road to Brexit’ rule book will be ‘unfair subsidies’, ‘fair competition’ and ‘mutual respect’, noting that ‘8/10 of the most used and implemented standards worldwide originated from the UK’. Finally, Davis took a lead from Theresa May’s Davos speech: when you run out of things to say about Brexit – start talking about drones and AI. Well hey, it works for me.

5Pointz  Street art has become an important but highly divisive element of inner-urban expression. Huge differentials in quality exist between simple and in some cases malicious ‘tagging’ and the painting of large murals. Canny developers have increasingly been quick to exploit the latter, where sanctioned murals can add vibrancy, deter taggers, and engage local communities. Research last year showed that the work of top name artists like Banksy could even add as much as £50,000 to the value of a property. However, a judgment awarded in New York this week might give cause for reflection. The owner of a run-down block (‘5Pointz’) who had given permission to artists to graffiti the building was sued after whitewashing it and then demolishing it to make way for a development project. In a landmark decision that places artistic rights over private property rights, the artists were awarded an eye watering $6.7m in damages. Although this doesn’t set a UK precedent (and is unlikely to affect work carried out by your painter and decorator) you might want to give careful consideration before letting anyone take a paint can to your building.

Lost cities?  A report by Newcastle University highlights the risk posed by a shift to more extreme weather patterns. Particularly, it is thought that the frequency of occurrence of flooding will increase, with 5.2 million properties in the UK identified as being at risk. It is tempting to think that extreme weather might blow over; however, a long term structural change in conditions is equally possible. Our terrain has changed radically over centuries, partly due to cyclical climate changes, but also due to human actions, such as deforestation. Many UK towns (typically strategically developed adjacent to water sources such as rivers) are built on land that was formerly marshy or wetland. If conditions revert, then as unpalatable as it might seem, decisions weighing the cost of abandoning urban areas against significant and indefinite investment in their protection feel, inevitable. This decision is relatively easy when the settlement is small, the risk is high, and the scenario is catastrophic, (e.g. Dunwich, Winchelsea). More difficult is when the settlement is large/valuable and the risk is incremental (e.g. Westminster).

Virtual holidays  Japan has for decades led the world in the innovation of the weird and the wonderful, (if you need any evidence for this, visit the Robot Restaurant in Kabukichō). As a result, Tokyo has earned its place as my favourite city in the world, (besides Hull of course). However, thanks to the ingenuity of the ‘Edokko’, one may no longer need to visit their city to enjoy its sights and cuisine. You can now enjoy an entire Virtual Reality holiday courtesy of Tokyo-based First Airlines. During a 110 minute ‘flight’ passengers experience first class ‘air travel on the ground’ including an in-flight meal, followed by a VR tour of their chosen city. Check-in (15 mins) is notably quicker than Narita Airport, there is no queue for the toilets, and nervous flyers can take some comfort that the safety demonstration is highly likely to be academic.


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