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Haxted Thinking is a monthly newsletter for anyone interested in how buildings and spaces are designed, made and used.

Edition No. 8: September 2022

 “Nothing endures but change”

Rethinking Property

Welcome back. This month I planned to talk about property and how it needs to change. 

The original idea for Haxted Thinking was to share ideas and insights from the frontline of the world of property development. But after a relentless couple of years where Covid tested us all to our limits, and new, wildly unpredictable challenges appeared almost daily, it has become increasingly difficult to know which insights might be the most helpful.

Through all of the volatility of these last two and a half years, the one thing I keep coming back to is how good space is more important than ever.  The quality of space in which we live and work has a fundamental bearing on our wellbeing. And yet how property gets done is a throwback to a different time. Much of it a legacy of the 1980’s when consumption and excess were badges of honour. And that approach is no longer fit for purpose.

So it’s time to rethink property. Top to bottom. From how it’s conceived, designed, built and used, to how it’s maintained, reimagined and adapted as it ages. How it’s funded, how it’s owned and how it’s bought and sold. We need our buildings to work better for us, and we need them to work better for the planet. Integrating our built environment with a planet suffering from biodiversity, climate and energy crises, is now a primary concern. And that means a change of newsletter focus. 

From Haxted Thinking to Rethinking Property – a newsletter to challenge conventional wisdom and explore ways to do property better.

We’re all in the property business….
The thing is, wherever we live, and whatever business we’re in, we’re in the property business. Whether we like it or not. Our investments in property are huge, not just financially but emotionally and spiritually. Because the spaces where we live and work determine our potential to live well. If we get it wrong the cost can be colossal.
Property development and investment is really about people and possibilities, more than it’s about physical buildings. Spaces are much more than just physical containers for our life’s activities, they have a fundamental impact on our life’s outcomes. In a conversation last year with my friend Richard Upton, who knows more than most about creating exceptional spaces, he summed up the responsibility of developers beautifully. He described us as like farmers – rather than cultivating land on which to grow crops, he said, we cultivate stages on which to help people grow. It’s a beautiful notion. The potential of what can happen in good spaces is boundless. So this month’s newsletter was going to be specifically about rethinking the way we in which we use space. Can our most important spaces be much more adaptable? How can we design and build homes to allow for growth, customisation and flexibility? How can we make our stages most conducive to the best performances…?
Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Then on 8th September Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died and writing a useful piece about property just somehow seemed unimportant. Instead I’d like to briefly pay my respects to the late Queen, on the day she was laid to rest. We’ll pick up on other things next month.
There is very little to add to what’s been written already about the late Queen. But one of the things that has struck me most reflecting on her reign over the last 11 days, is what a paragon of great leadership she was. Notwithstanding that in a constitutional monarchy, her power was soft power, she wielded it with effortless effectiveness. She said little, but what she said always seemed to be just right. I used a variation of her well known condolence to the American people after 9/11 – “grief is the price we pay for love” in my eulogy for my late brother. And it gave us all strength when she reminded us during the Covid pandemic lockdown that - “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
Good leadership is often about the things we don’t do, rather than those we do. The late Queen was a master of this. She didn't relent in doing things the way she saw fit to do them even when under pressure from outside. Ever Stoic and always humble she believed in old fashioned virtues like being seen and not heard. In an age when everyone always seems to have something to say, she held a remarkable silence and it was a silence full of integrity.

When her mother and her sister died within two months of each other in 2002, she cancelled nothing and took no time out from her tireless schedule. And who can forget the heartrending scene of her sitting alone in St George's Chapel at Windsor, at her beloved husband’s funeral last April. Not for her the merest hint of complaint or the suggestion of different rules given the magnitude of her loss, and her position. At the age of 94 she returned to Royal duties within 4 days of his death. What incredible leadership and what a fine example to us all. Hers was a life of impeccable duty, decency, honour and service. 

At her private funeral this afternoon, The Dean of Windsor said: 

“In the midst of our rapidly changing and frequently troubled world, her calm and dignified presence has given us confidence to face the future, as she did, with courage and with hope.”

In the uncertainty of a turbulent world she held the anchorage of monarchy in a reassuring way. Her 70 years of unstinting service, all undertaken with good humour, will likely never be matched. She showed us all, powerfully, how to quietly transform ourselves to meet new and evolving challenges. Let us all draw strength and example from her wonderful life. May she rest in peace.
Who is Haxted? 
Haxted is a real estate development company passionate about creating beautiful homes and workspaces at a fair price. Our business is grounded in the visceral belief that well-designed and crafted buildings can massively enhance the quality of peoples’ lives. Haxted came into existence during the 2008 global financial crisis, a time of great turmoil.  The tectonic plates of how to do development were shifting. We needed to be nimble and ready to change shape at short notice. So navigating disruption and change is in our DNA. Our thinking is that property needs less business-as-usual and more imagination. Less stuff and more soul. A little less conversation, a whole lot more action.  
The decisions that we make about where to invest and what buildings we choose to live, work and play in have never been more important. At Haxted we are fueled by curiosity and the art of the possible. If you’d like to see what we’re up to, or discuss doing something together please email me at I’ll generally respond within 24 hours.

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Haxted · Unit 2 Charnwood Edge Business Park · Cossington , Leicestershire LE7 4UZ · United Kingdom