5G is coming closer…

You’ll remember this announcement that appeared earlier this year:

“Surrey Heath Borough Council today (24 February 2020) announce plans to co-operate with key partners for The Square shopping centre in Camberley to become the first fully 5G-enabled shopping centre in the UK.

“Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) and key partners, including globally renowned experts of this ground-breaking technology, will work together to explore and research how new and innovative technology could transform the retail experience and form the blueprint for how the “clicks and mortar” retail sector could operate in the future.

“Powered by the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, the world’s first dedicated 5G research and innovation centre and Huawei, the world’s leading 5G technologists, the network will create a distinctive ‘test-bed’ opportunity for the latest innovations in the retail sector.   Find out more at  www.camberleybeinspired.com

Well, we don’t know the details, but Huawei seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour nationally.  So it’s not been surprising that we’ve heard little more about the project since then.

However, a somewhat similar scheme with no mention of Huawei seems to be in the pipeline.  This Expression of Interest has surfaced recently:

“Camberley shopping centre seeking interested businesses for first full private 5G infrastructure shopping centre in the UK

“The owners of The Square Shopping Centre in Camberley (Surrey) are seeking expressions of interest from businesses and retailers who want to experience and test the latest technology delivering the foundation for innovation in the UK’s first fully 5G enabled shopping centre.

“We are looking to hear from businesses of all sizes who want the opportunity to be a part of this incredible, ground-breaking, step change for the retail industry. We believe 5G is the future of retail so If you’re a business that’s interested in working with global leaders in 5G technology register your interest at https://www.thesqcamberley.co.uk/5g/

“We’re not talking mobile phones here, this is real 5G, the type of network that can power autonomous vehicles, remote surgeries and make virtual and augmented realities common place.

“Once live across our 480,000 sq ft retail centre, The Square, Camberley, will be the first of shopping centre of its kind in the UK and only the third in existence anywhere in the world. 5G retail technology is at the forefront of current research with some exciting new applications driving superior customer experience through data driven AI, ML and XR strategies.

“Some of the applications you will be able to deploy include: digital signage, computer vision, dynamic pricing, robotics, logistics, intelligent personalised advertising and immersive customer experiences for consumers.

“Not only will we be providing world class 5G infrastructure for you to leverage, your business will also have access to the world acclaimed Surrey University 5G labs and Verizon’s 5GLabs to assist with the 5G ecosystem, 5G technology and commercial business case for your business. There is vast potential as the benefits from Industry 4.0, more research and innovation takes place around the world.

“Surrey Heath Borough Council’s Leader, Councillor Alan McClafferty, said: “This is a really exciting area for businesses to trailblaze new technologies and ways of working in a supportive and encouraging environment. We believe by equipping our shopping centre with full 5G infrastructure we are blueprinting the future of retail. I’d encourage all businesses big and small to be a part of this national first.”

“Partnering the project is the University of Surrey at their 5G Innovation Centre at the Institute for Communication Systems.  Who are researching the potential applications of 5G infrastructure in and their privately developed core. Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Founder of the 5G Innovation Centre, said: “Providing the cutting-edge technology for the UK’s first fully 5G-enabled shopping centre, gives Camberley’s retailers a head-start in the race to transform retail for the future.”

“Rhoda Joseph, The Square shopping centre manager, commented;  “During this time of  change on our High Streets and Shopping Centres the introduction of 5G in Camberley  shows how forward thinking and ahead of the game the town is.   I look forward to this great initiative and believe it will be of great benefit for businesses and those shoppers who will use it personally”.

“The initiative is also supported by StoryFutures, a Royal Holloway University organisation, which supports R&D projects in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality by working closely with growing SMEs.”

Why does the announcement refer to “The owners of The Square Shopping Centre” rather than the borough council?  A political smokescreen, perhaps?

Compass House

If you use Lower Charles Street, you’ll be familiar with the work going on at the former Compass House on the A30.  But, if you don’t, you might like to be aware of what the building looks like from behind.  Its conversion to flats is a major project.

Before you ask, we think the finished project will consist of fifty flats of various sizes, and twenty five parking spaces.  Maybe if the tenants work from home and they don’t have a car (which is more common than it used to be, of course), that’ll be enough.

Graffiti – now and then

If you trawl the internet, you can read that the ‘art’ of graffiti goes back some fifteen thousand years.  (You’ll also discover that it originated in 1967, in Philadelphia.   Which just confirms the importance of defining what you mean…)

Anyway, we don’t like it.

Certainly we don’t when it’s just crude spray painting on the walls of the pavillion in the London Road Recreation Ground.

Bill’s – the good news

Sometimes you kick yourself for not taking a photo!  This is one of those times.  We’re SURE that there were tired bay trees in pots either side of the Bill’s doorway a little while ago.  We didn’t recall seeing them there before, but we thought it was just one of those things.  But they’d disappeared when we took this photo a day or two later.

Anyway, though this ‘news’ is a bit late, it’s good to report that Bill’s seem to have re-opened.  This wasn’t particularly obvious at the time, as the restaurant name was still missing from the black-painted fascia boards.

 

The squeeze re-visited

The other day we pointed out that the pavement on the corner of Princess Way and the service yard behind Wiko et al was very narrow.  There’s really only room for one person to turn the corner at a time. A pedestrian one-way system!

Rightly, someone commented that not many people actually go all the way round the corner;  almost everyone crosses the service yard entrance and keeps going along Princess Way.  But that raises a different thought – there doesn’t seem to be a ‘dropped kerb’ on the corner.  Will ‘pavement buggies’ manage ok? – we’ll have to wait and see.

The latest Camberley dance routine

Well, our title doesn’t refer so much to a ‘dance’ routine, as to a ‘shuffle’ routine.

For some reason, the borough council hasn’t put floor numbers in the stairwell of Main Square car park.  So we’ve encountered people who start to leave the stairs via one of the institution-green doors, then realise that they’re on the wrong floor.  At which point they reverse back out again. Confusion for them, and for any one behind them trying to maintain a social distance.

Perhaps the council could put a notice at the bottom of the stairs saying ‘Please count the floors as you climb these stairs, remember that ground floor is level one, and make sure that you leave at the correct floor’.  Numbering the floors might be more helpful, though!  (Of course, the parking areas themselves are ‘colour coded’.  Why not paint the doors the relevant colour??)

Maybe the problem has arisen because council officers and staff don’t use the ‘facilities’ that they provide for us – the tax-paying residents?

We’re no accountant, but…

 

The latest borough council draft Financial Statement is available on the council’s website.  It’s a detailed documentPeter has written about the council’s purchase of The Square.  As we’re not an accountant, we’ll quote him verbatim:

“Within a period of 40 months from the date of purchase yields have doubled, rents have declined to the point that some premises operate rent-free, and voids are at a far higher level than forecasted. All of this was foreseeable and retail industry and commercial property experts were warning of this early in 2016. Also, in 2016 in the US, where internet shopping was more advanced than in the UK, Malls were closing at a rapid rate as consumers changed their shopping habits.

“The Council, in the financial year 2015-16 prior to the purchase of the Mall, had reserves of £47 million and cash net of debt £7 million. As at 31 March 2020, pre Covid-19, the reserves were NEGATIVE £31 million and DEBT net of cash £ 145 million. A diminution in reserves of £78 million and a debt increase of £152 million.

“Tonight, there’s a meeting of the Performance and Finance Scrutiny Committee  (watch on Youtube from 7pm, https://www.youtube.com/user/SurreyHeathBC).  One item on the agenda is titled ‘Property Investments’:  the Committee is seeking an independent inquiry into the Council’s acquisition of The Mall and other properties.”

What is particularly galling about this horrendous decline in OUR finances is that it took place whilst the previous Chief Executive was in power.  Yet the Financial Statement appears to show that she continued to receive her full salary while on extended leave – the lengthy period during which her ‘additional duties’ allowance was being investigated.

 

How about becoming the Chief Executive?

The following job advertisement appeared very recently:

“Inspire the future of Surrey Heath

“Surrey Heath is already one of the safest, cleanest and greenest places in the UK and our commitment to making it an even better place to live, work and enjoy is at the forefront of everything we do.

“We want to continue to build and encourage communities where residents can live happily and healthily, while also aiming to deliver effective and efficient services better and faster. We have big ambitions to support and promote our local economy; enabling people to successfully work and do business in Surrey Heath.

“As we start a new chapter as an organisation, we are looking for a strategic leader with a proven track record of delivering positive results. As Chief Executive, you’ll be a proven leader, a good listener and even better communicator who will put the needs of Surrey Heath’s people first in everything you do. You’ll be a strong decision maker who has their finger on the pulse, while also being able to ensure we remain on track in relation to our long-term vision of delivering high quality, innovative services to our customers.

“We’re looking for someone who understands that strong public engagement is vital to our future. The new post holder will need to evaluate how we go about service delivery, and therefore also bring stability to the organisation. We’ll need our Chief Executive to connect, enthuse, and collaborate while also making sure Surrey Heath’s voice is heard.

“We want to maintain all our current services in the Borough and take every opportunity to enhance and improve the lives and prospects for everyone who either resides, works or does business across the whole of Surrey Heath.

“You’ll provide strong, collaborative leadership and strive to deliver high quality results, reinforce astute financial management and strengthen partnerships. If you have proven experience of forging good relationships with members, communities, and other key stakeholders, then we want to hear from you.

Salary: “Up to £126,000 + car allowance”