19th December 2007
Ever since we moved to Brenfield in Ansty in 1992 events have not gone quite as planned. The events on Black Monday and the mess that the Conservative Government made of the UK's exit from the pre-Euro monetary alignment (ERM) wrecked the value of the property we were selling and ended us up with a bigger mortgage than was comfortable. Business arrangements with the USA based company, with whom we were initially employed, broke down and we had to restart our own business involving substantial start-up costs.
After the death of my father we commenced downsizing our business and realigning it to printing and internet work. After a period Suzanne took a job as manager of the cactus business of Freshacres rather than working full time in our business partnership.
In August 2006 Suzanne was made redundant from her job at Freshacres Nursery some months before her planned retirement date. Since that time she has been again working in our printing and website businesses. Tony's retirement date is January 2009 and we had been hoping to keep our remaining business running until that date as we still have loans and mortgage to pay.
Unfortunately the last few weeks has seen a whole series of major upsets to our plans with serious consequences to our financial position.
The first thing to happen was that we lost our major printing and website customer at short notice. As this consitituted about 30% of our business and was a regular monthly job, it made it necessary to make our remaining employee, Christine, redundant and also made it necessary to close our printing business somewhen during 2008, somewhat earlier than we would otherwise have done. After that date we will retain our printing equipment and continue to do a few private jobs such as the MSG Bulletin and some BCSS jobs.
A few days later we lost our lodger who had been with us about 4 years. He was killed outright in a motorbike accident. This was a traumatic incident for his children, estranged wife and girlfriend and ourselves. It was also a substantial loss of income for ourselves and for reasons which will become obvious later in this story we cannot take in a new lodger.
Some days later it became evident that yet another crisis was upon us. The business we rented our server from in the USA for more than 8 years, Alabanza had been taken over by a predatory business, Navisite Inc. It soon became evident that Navisite had little regard for Albanza customers and were mainly concerned with making a quick buck. They undertook an extremely poorly planned data center move which took 200,000 websites off-line for anywhere between 3-8 days. We suffered a direct financial loss of a few hundred pounds in this fiasco but it also had a destabilising effect on our web hosting business. We are also involved in additional expenditure and a huge amount of work in relocating some 140 websites. In theory we are due for compensation. We located a new host for the Cactus-Mall websites and are getting them all moved as quickly as possible. To avoid a similar event damaging us in the future we will be developing a second server which we can switch to at short notice.
Taking all these factors into consideration we have decided that we can no longer afford to stay at Brenfield but must move in order to restructure our finances and life.
Overlaying all this is another situation which commenced a few months earlier and which puts a more positive aspect on our position. We received an offer on Brenfield (our house) from a developer which is in excess of 50% above its substantial market value, subject to them getting planning permission to develop the site. We have exchanged option contracts on this deal and the developers are submitting a planning application today or tomorrow. Assuming this is granted we will be moving somewhere between 6-15 months from now. It will enable us to completely restructure our finances and continue with business interests that are of most interest to us.
Our current thinking is to remain in Sussex and move somewhat to the East of our present location to a property with sufficient land, perhaps 1-2 acres, to build a large complex of greenhouses for our plants. We can only make provisonal plans at this stage but need to ready to put everything in motion quickly once planning permission is granted. We have structured Christine's redundancy such that she will stay with us until our printing business is closed and we have moved. She will thus be able to help us with what is going to be a very complicated relocation. In addition to
moving the usual home items and moving our plant collection we have a large library to move and some 1,000 large boxes of BCSS publications which will need a large storage building at the new site.
If all goes to plan then we will be able to build something in excess of 2,000 square foot of glass for our collection and sales plants with all the best environmental controls. It is probable that we will be more active in selling cacti and succulents subsequent to the move. It will also free us up to travel more extensively. Should the development plans fall through we will still have to move and significant downsizing will be needed and/or moving to a cheaper area in the country.
In either case the Cactus and Succulent Plant Mall business will continue. We will continue and expand the business of hosting and advertising cactus and succulent related activities on-line. I will, however, not take on so much detailed website development work. I will also probably make more use of resellers to support websites in particular countries.
Tony and Suzanne Mace
The initial planning permission application was refused. A new application will be submitted by the developers by the end of March 2008 which will hopefully meet a lot of the valid objections. Simultaneously a planning appeal is being submitted to National Government which has about a nine month approval cycle. We therfore expect that if the second aplication is not approved by the end of May we will be looking at November for approval which will mean a move date of around March 2009 at the latest.
There have been delays while solutions to the objections agianst the original planning application are found. We expect that a second planning application will be submitted on the 21.5.2008. A decision on this has to be given by 21.7.2008. This makes a move this year very tight but possible. Meanwhile the appeal has been submitted and is in the pipeline so those dates are unchanged. The current changes in house prices are favourable to us but it is prooving quite a challenge to find properties meeting all our needs.
Further complications have arisen since the last update due to the collapse of the UK housing market and the unprecendented contraction of the house building industry. To keep the project live we have had to take a substantial cut in our sale price of Brenfield. Fortunately the corresponding reduction of the cost of what we may eventually buy partly offsets this, but all other costs continue to rise substantially. The real rate of inflation based on our expenditure pattern is beteween 10-12% not what the official lies of the government manage to fiddle to 3%.
Due to the financial problems and bureaucratic delays the second planning application has still not been submitted. It should be done in the next couple of weeks but the timescale is such that we will not now be moving until early 2009.