Gold Coast Stuff

I have no cause but to be a pin beneath the saddle of those who ride roughshod over ordinary people.

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The 2013 Hong Kong Gold Coast Boat Show is in full swing. And, as you might expect the yotties and their hotties are prowling the shopping centre on the hunt for breakfast. Several eventually found tables at Le Bristol, MacDog had a healthy few, Resto and Pacific Coffee were busy with coffees and buns and eggs and stuff.
BUT
The one shop that we really, honestly thought was going to set an example and raise the bar was CLOSED! Now I have visited the ‘Piazza’ every day since Saffron opened and I have seen no one spend a dollar. It might be that my timing was wrong and the moment my heels disappeared from sight hoards of eager shoppers flooded the place. If thats the case they replaced their stock pretty quickly.
Don’t the owners care? Do they think the fickle Tuen Munite will wake up one day and say, ‘y’know that place with no name that doesn’t sell anything is just where we want to go today.’
So far this statement by the shy and retiring Mr. Albert Kwong has proven to be whistling in the dark.

[back]

‘It is our policy to enhance the shopping experience of the Gold Coast Piazza.’ Sino

Mr. Kwong – YOU HAVE FAILED.

Keeping that header for a moment, we see that just around the corner the japanese sushi(?) bar thingy has gone the way of other small companies who thought the Gold Coast was THE place to start a business. It is being replaced by what looks like yet another marketing fiasco, a Trappist (brand) Belgian Bar. OK there are times when some people (mostly young ladies it seems to me) like to drink something that tastes of strawberries or flowers or the perfume counter of Sogo. But the people who drink beer, drink real beer made of hops (or chemicals) will only drink ‘novelty’ beers for a bit of fun or on a trial basis. No one, no one will ever change from a lifetime of British, German, American or Chinese beer to something that is made from perfume. That just ain’t gonna happen.
And so we see first the apparent failure of Saffron (thats the shop with no name) and now the probable failure of the Trappist brand, due I would hazard a guess, to a total lack of basic market research. And still Billy Smarts Circus upstairs insists they are enhancing the shopping experience of the Gold Coast Piazza.
I hope the Trappists (monks who vow to a life of silence) make a go of it, and I really hope that Saffron realises that this is not the pooffy peak, but down to earth Gold Coast and finds just one reason why anyone should spend money in what looks like a missing tooth in an otherwise healthy set of healthy choppers.
Most of all I hope that Billy Smarts Circus upstairs will get real and stop posing and posturing and pretending they are something they are not.

Hold it, hold it, hold it…

The Trappist brewery is going to sell ‘flavoured’ beers, right?  no man is going to drink perfume, right?
It seems we were on the verge of being wrong!
This week saw the latest in that terrible, terrible TV show, The Apprentice, in which sixteen wannabees say and do the most childish and ridiculous things in the name of what they think is business, in the hope of blagging £250,000 from Lord Alan Sugar and in episode two what was the task?
The task was to invent, brand and sell …. a flavoured beer! not a hop flavoured beer, but a yeuchy, fruity flavoured beer because as the VO said, ‘Flavoured beers, the latest trend in British brewing.’
And the winning team was sent on a jolly to where? Why Belgium, of course. So maybe, just maybe there will be enough ‘trendy’ young beer drinkers to make the Trappists go ‘yeee-hahhh.’

[back]

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I have come to have a degree of sympathy with Saffron.
I can’t help feeling that something has gone terribly wrong. Perhaps the owner is sick or incapacitated in some other way but to be the only completely empty store in what the clowns in Sino call the Gold Coast Piazza is unforgivable. Compound that with the fact that on the busiest evening of the week (Saturday) the store was closed we must surmise that something really has gone terribly wrong. When the Sino circus clowns told us they were intent on ‘improving the shopping experience of the gold Coast’, we interpreted it as a campaign to increase rentals by bringing in bigger names. hasn’t happened so far. Just round the corner another outlet has closed (The Japanese Sushi bar) and in its place is coming a Belgian Beer Bar. Belgian? The German bar on the first floor has hardly been a success so now you want a Belgian Beer Bar. Well maybe it’ll be OK but at the extortionate rentals and restrictive conditions imposed by Billy Smarts circus upstairs it’ll be a miracle if it survives a single contract.

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Let’s bid Saffron a welcome to the Gold Coast.

Really have to think this through. First impressions following weeks and weeks of preparation.
You may consider this unfair, but in retail when you first open your doors you need to be ready. Saffron opened yesterday so this is day 2.
1. Nothing to say what the shop is. Not even a name board.
2. Welcome. Staff unsmiling and resigned to failure.
3. Epoxy (or PU floor) I just hope you haven’t paid full price for that. If you did you have been conned. There are several construction specialists in GC who could have pointed you in the right  direction.
4. No coffee. Had I not asked I would have come away thinking you just sold bottles of pop.
5. There is a shelf with tee shirts on it. My wardrobe is tidier … and a man’s wardrobe is never tidy.
6. The furniture is a disaster. Which genius of design suggested that people like to sit on boxes?
7. Bread. Ridiculously expensive and not even covered. Cakes and buns certainly are not begging to be eaten.
8. Entry by a very dangerous step. It needs to be highlighted. You really cannot have staff telling everyone to mind the step. Negative.
Conclusion: A very inauspicious and very disappointing start. Today is Mayday. The Gold Coast is mad busy. Saffron should be rushed off its feet. It isn’t. The boss, a nice person from correspondence I have had, should have been there at 11.00am.
I would guess that unless you are ready for business for Saturday (the next window of trade) you might as well pack up and go home.

[back]

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It’s 8.30 am

14 April 2013

830 pitchThe ground is as ready as it will ever be as excitement reaches fever pitch ahead of this afternoon’s Sino Football Tournament.
Just a couple of questions before the kick off. Firstly, I have walked that pitch possibly hundreds of times. It is, perhaps one of the most dangerous playing surfaces ever played upon. What have Sino arranged for stand-by medical treatment. Will the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade have a tent? Second, and tied in to the first, what insurance cover have Sino arranged to cover visiting players to the Gold Coast, specially in the light of the fact that residents offered to relay the pitch a couple of years ago AT THEIR OWN COST.
Hopefully there will be a Sino representative to hand this arvo to answer these questions…and of course make interminable speeches.
We’ll try to bring you more exciting info as the day wears, inexorably, on.
Being on the verge of blaming the goddess who shares my life for destroying the notification of the event, I went to the club house to enquire. They said that there were notices in the club house but…they could not find them! So I went to the leasing office and it was there I learned the truth. While the event is ‘open’ to all, tenants of private landlords do not get the same priviledges. Miss Galy Cowen explained: ‘This is a private party’.

Miss Cowen, you would not have been able to hold the event without the GC residents who rent from private landlords. Not really the best example of good publicity!

Anyway – on with the motley

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Footy 2footy1

45 minutes to go. The teams are arriving

First an intro from a kindly Sino lady who invited all the teams onto the green field. I was not the only onlooker to consider scouting round for fields of a gentler hue. A pink pitch, perhaps? Blue?

The teams:

1. Gold Coast Flying Pigs Rovers . These are the GC regulars. Watch them every Sunday and stand in awe at the genius ball control and energy of these guys. Some of them can even grab a smoke when the game starts to flag!
2. Gold Coast Flying Pigs United . Same as above, but we really have to say that ‘Football is a game of two halves’. Now who said that.
3. Beachcombers FC The Beachcombers bar is along the beach by the big rocks. Makes a nice change sometimes from the thrill of staring at decoration that has remained unchanged since before the wheel was invented.
4. Sino Management . Despite our gentle critcism of Sino management, like any organisation the footsoldiers are just guys and like playing footy. They arrived with smiles and kept them through defeat like true sportsmen.
Results:
Rovers 0 – 0 Sino
Beachcombers 0 – 0 United
United 3 – 0 Sino
Rovers 1 – 0 United
Beachcombers 4 – 0 Sino
Rovers 2 – 0 Beachcombers
And now specially for the girls details of the Flying Pigs (both teams)
Rovers:
1. James Myring England
2. Vince Cochlin England
3. Rami de la Serna (captain) Argentina
4. Roberto Hernandez Mexico
5. Marc Hamish Anderson Scotland
6. Kane Lawrance England
7. James Isles England
8. Jordan Jarvis Hong Kong
9. Robert Ostendorf Germany
10. Tony Reed New Zealand
Manager: Casper Lawrance
United:
1. Holger Wustmann Germany
2. Kevin Rousseau France
3. John Lui Hong Kong
4. Michael McGarvey Scotland
5. Aymeric Rousseau France
6. Charles Soulisse France
7. Manuel Cardoso Portugal
8. William Grierson Hong Kong
9. Mark Gillyon Australia
10. Abid Shaikh Not sure …! Hong Kong for a long time
Manager: Danny McGarvey

footy 3  footy 4

Some of the gods of Gold Coast footy and one goddess.
Kane Lawance proudly clutching the cup.

Leona's pics

Thanks to Leona for the above.
And finally: Well done Sino for remembering those fantastic givers to the community, The St. John’s Ambulance brigade.

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STOP, STOP, STOP

April 11, 2013Two residential sites in Tsueng Kwan O and Tuen Mun in the 2013-14 Land Sale Programme will be disposed of by public tender, the Lands Department announced today.

The first site is Tseung Kwan O Town Lot No.93
The second site is Tuen Mun Town Lot No.434 at the junction of Ka Wo Li Hill Road and Castle Peak Road, So Kwun Wat.

It has a site area of about 3,457 sq m and is designated for private residential purposes. The minimum and maximum gross floor areas are 2,697 and 4,494.1 sq m.
The tender invitation for both lots will run from May 10 to June 21.
The final conditions of sale for both lots will be uploaded to the Lands Department’s website by May 10, when the particulars of the tender will also be gazetted.

Add that to the 480 apartments to be built by Wheelock in So Kwun Wat and this place could turn into a living hell. Sino want GC to be exclusive? Fat chance now. Will anyone put up with 25-30% rent hikes now?

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Is there really a breath of fresh air blowing into the Gold Coast Shopping Mall? (No, I won’t call it a ‘piazza’!)

We are certainly not alone in our criticism of Market Place. Examples of price gauging abound and still, despite complaints, Market Place is Wellcome in Green.

Now, in the shape of Saffron Cake and bakery comes what appears to be quite a new experience. They are certainly singing the right songs. We do not know the exact opening date (we havent asked) but it is imminent. We will be interested to see how they have maximised what is a very small premises to include the range of products available at their other outlets.

REYKJAVICTIM_GIG_POSTER_NO_PRICESIf they are serious about entertainment (this from their newsletter) let’s hope they utilise the Gold Coast stage with something other than precocious tots of decidedly limited talent and canto pop groups who are simply mass produced copied of other mass produced copies.

A few years ago, that strange English foody, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall launched a campaign to improve the rearing conditions of chickens. Before the blog I wrote to some supermarkets in hong kong to ask what their policy was regarding the welfare of chickens destined for the table. I have to report that no serious answers were received.

Having persuaded most supermarkets in the Uk to improve their supervision of chicken suppliers he then turned his attention to fish. This from Saffron:

Fish Fight
UK TV presenter, chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley Whittingshall has started a campaign in the UK to create marine reserves around the coastline of the British Isles. We know that something of a similar ilk is somewhat of a fantasy here in Hong Kong (Although in the Philippines a marine reserves campaign has been very successful). As campaign supporter Stephen Fry says… “The Fish Fight is important. Damned important. It is so fantastically easy for us to make a difference by doing a small something and so appallingly easy for us to be complicit in a complete disaster by doing a big nothing.”

Even the UK supermarkets are sitting up and taking notice

If this is a taste of what’s to come from Saffron then I, for one and despite previous comments, welcome them.

BUT, Mrs. Saffron*, don’t think that you can follow Market Place with extortionate prices. Despite what you may have been told by Sino, Hong Kong Gold Coast is not an exclusive resort. There are a few well heeled residents and a few similarly shod visitors but most people are just nice people.

*Note: Mrs Saffron has a name, but we have no present intention to name or shame her.

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Latest: We said:

More flats – more expensive?

WHEELOCK won the tender for a site, Tuen Mun Town Lot No. 427 at So Kwun Wat Road, Area 56, So Kwun Wat, Tuen Mun, New Territories, for $1,388 million, which is in line with market expectation.

Tuen Mun Town Lot No. 427 has a site area of about 26,934 square metres and is designated for private residential purposes. The minimum gross floor area and the maximum gross floor area are 21,009 sq m and 35,014 sq m respectively. The total number of residential units to be built shall not be less than 460 and shall not exceed 480.

$1388 million! divide by 480 flats means that, on average each flat has to return $2.9 million before a cu m of concrete has been poured. $39555.61 per metre or $3,629 per sq ft. At current prices of about $5,500 per sq ft Wheelock have $1871 per ft to build and sell at a profit. Our estimate is that the flats will be selling at at least $6million each. No services, no sea view, paltry bus service and virtually no shops. And do you think, for one moment that First Bastard Bus service will increase its service? Not on your life. Their aim is to fill every bus to overflowing and to hell with the comfort and well being of their passengers.
The goose that is, at present, straining to lay golden eggs fast enough to satisfy the unethical, anti societal greed is likely to fall over dead before another generation passes through the halls of Arrer-on-the-‘ill.

Flat Rate Tax

The suggestion that there should be a tax empty flats has been going the rounds of HK government for several years. Now, in an effort to improve his image I guess, CYL hints that the subject should once more be considered.

Now if you live in the Hong Kong Gold Coast you might smile at this and whisper under whatever breath you can take in today’s horrendous pollution, that it is ‘about time’. Dozens of flats remain unsold or unlet by the nice people at Sino. Whole blocks lie idle. Surely, one might think in one’s naivety, surely it is in Sino’s interest to find tenants.

Nope.

Sino don’t care one very small fig whether the flats are let or not. They are not actually ‘flats’ in the mind of this unacceptably greedy Singaporean company. Used to riding roughshod over the feelings of their tenants and of ignoring the law when it suits them by dint of their size an importance to HK’s economy. These flats are assets. It works like this:

I build 100 flats. At today’s market price of HK$4000 per square foot and each of my flats advertised as 1000 sq.ft. my asset value is HK$400,000,000. The flats actually cost to build about HK$1,500,000 or a total of HK$150,000,000. My profit (not tax because …’there are ways…’) HK$250,000,000.

Now next year my flats are going to be worth HK$4,500 per sq ft. an additional HK$50,000,000. 50 mill and effort expended – nil! Next year the same happens and the next and the next. There is no incentive for me to even try to get tenants. After all they only make the place dirty and I will have to redecorate every contract.

So a tax on empty flats is not only the right and proper thing to do but it is fair. No one begrudges a developer his profit but lets not get carried away.

Back to Sino and the Gold Coast.

I heard a rumour that Sino were refusing to renew contracts on some businesses because they did not have the ‘class’ Sino desired. No mister. It aint nothin’ to do with class. Put Starbucks instead of Pac Coffee, put an expensive posh restaurant instead of Resto, put a swanky bar instead of Medstars. Then Mister Sino doesn’t increase his asset value by ten percent, he can push it up through the ceiling.

So we wrote to Sino. Here is the email:

Certain rumours are circulating in Gold Coast. I would like your comments. (HKCOASTER Blog)
1. Starbucks are planning to move to Gold Coast and you intend to eject an existing popular business for them.
2. You have refused to extend the contract of another small business to allow another, bigger, name to take the premises.
3. You have allowed illegal structures to be erected by some of your tenants knowing that these structures contravened the BD ordinance.
Mr. Kxxxx, I am quite prepared to accept that the rumours are unfounded, but need you to confirm this.
The intention of the blog, above, is to bring to the public’s notice matters that may be regarded as unfair and/or exploitative.
Additional question in the light of today’s news regarding tax on empty properties:
4. How many residences in the Sino Gold Coast development are vacant now and how many have been vacant for six months or longer?
You appear to be reticent about replying. Do you have a problem with disclosing information that should, morally and ethically, be in the public domain?
========================================================================
Our first email was sent on 9th January after receipt of the non committal response from the owners of Starbucks in HK.
TODAY 22 January 2013, the ostrich finally realised that the question had not gone away and this was received:

Dear Mr Xxxx,

 Thank you for your email of 9 January 2013 to the Hong Kong Gold Coast Customer Service Centre about tenant mix and building structures. The matters have been referred to this office as the leasing agent for Gold Coast Piazza for follow-up and reply.

 First of all, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support to Gold Coast Piazza.

 We have been striving to enhance the shopping experience at the mall through introducing quality tenants that cater to the evolving needs of the customers and the community. We hope to have your kind understanding that, as in all commercial negotiations and agreements, we are unable to disclose details pertaining to tenancies.

 Regarding your enquiry on unauthorised building works (UBW), once an UBW is identified, we take proactive measures to liaise with the tenant to take immediate follow-ups to comply with the relevant requirements.

Once again, thank you for your kind understanding in the matters.

 If we could be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned on00000000.

Yours sincerely,

Read it again. What does it tell you? It tells you that the original addressee would not face the questions and passed it to another department. It tells you that the writer of this email considers us, and by extension, you the reader, to be so bloody stupid that we will swallow this garbage and go and sit on the beach under the clouded sun.

They say: we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support to Gold Coast Piazza

What support? I live here because it is quite a nice place to live. I do NOT support Gold Coast Piazza, I support the business owners who are trying, under very difficult circumstances to make a living.

And then this gem: We have been striving to enhance the shopping experience at the mall through introducing quality tenants that cater to the evolving needs of the customers and the community.

Quality tenants? I don’t know about you but the last thing I want is a bloody Zara or a Lane Crawford. The reason I like GC is that it DOESNT have these atrocious places. I like Ebenezers and Le Bristol, and Resto and that noodle shop, I even like MacDonalds and the stalls and the Cooking Restaurant. To me that is what GC is about. They think that bringing in ‘quality tenants’ they are going to enhance the shopping experience!! Just how mad are they?

See below for the latest on the Starbucks saga.

17 January 2013

Temporary Marketing Corner.

There is, in Hong Kong, a peculiar form of management and another of justice.

The management peculiarity is a deep held belief that, ignored for long enough problems will go away. We see it all too frequently so I asked a few of my contacts. I like to call it

OSTRICH MANAGEMENT

And this is what it is about:

Chinese culture abhors confrontation. That’s fine just as long as the alternative doesn’t, as it were, see a gap in the market. Trouble is Hong Kong, believe it or not, is multi cultural… no, really. Hong Kong businesses value western middle managers and our shop keepers’ eyes, at least until the mainlanders started their ridiculous shopping frenzy, brighten at the mere sight of a western face, but I digress.

Faced with a problem Chinese people will walk away. Served bad food in a restaurant? Don’t go back. Faced with a problem in business a Chinese manager will also walk away from it and refuse, point blank, to respond to any communication that is likely to be confrontational.

So it came as little surprise that Maxims ignored our requests to talk about the possible Starbucks invasion of the Gold Coast and it wasn’t until they were ‘threatened’ with publicity that Maggie (see Starbucks article) felt she ought to speak, but even then refused to put anything in writing (which is why I helped her!) Anyway, having hit something of a brick wall with Coffee Concepts (Maxims) we thought we’d try to get an answer from Sino so we wrote to Alfred Kwong. Now We know Mr. Kwong from old, he doesn’t like to get involved in controversy. He agreed that buses waiting for wedding revellers outside the country club with their engines belching smoke and fumes into the night was a bad thing and promised to do something about it. It comes as no surprise that buses were still belching fumes outside the Country Club last Saturday, more than two years after Mr. Kwong;s promise to ‘do something’!

We wrote to Mr. Kwong on 9th January asking foranswers to certain questions regarding Starbucks and other similar issues. Today 17 January 2013 we STILL have received no response. Today Mr. Kwong will be asked the same questions for the THIRD time.

Let’s see what happens.

6 January 2013

Just before Christmas 2012 we posted this:

Just wondering….
Resto, that nice restaurant with such pleasant staff, has been asked/made to remove its temporary cover. The Cooking Restaurant opposite has been similarly instructed.
Both establishments have complied knowing, of course, that the enforced lack of cover will be detrimental to their business. Perhaps it is the over officiousness of Sino or perhaps the jobsworths at the government, but it seems that the rule does not apply equally to everyone.
Now we must ask ourselves why some have had to demolish their ‘tents’ (for want of a better word), and some haven’t. It was suggested that it might be about ‘connections’. Mmm. I wonder what that means.

Update.

It seems that the deadline set by BD and Sino was 31 December 2012. Resto and the Pantry On Board, complied with Sino’s request immediately whereas Le Bristol waited until the last possible moment before stripping their covers. Typical Hong Kong behaviour if I may hazard such an opinion! The aluminium frames that held the covers, however, are still in place. Now I don’t wish to jump to conclusions so I will suggest that perhaps the outside section of Le Bristol is ‘in transition’. I certainly would never suggest that Le Bristol might  have other ideas. I don’t want to be ‘chopped’, honest I don’t.

There is out and out greed and there is Sino greed. At this time of the year both are anathemas for any decent person. Mr. Charles Dickens, whose birthplace incidentally, I used to pass on the way to school, portrayed an England of unbridled cruelty and wickedness, but he had nothing on Sino.

The reason I say that is because in Victorian England poverty, squalor and exploitation were almost  ‘de rigueur’, but drawing to the end of 2012 a proud year for many people, there can be no excuse for Sino’s behaviour. Their grasping claws have claimed one life, that of the Pantry on Board and are, as we write, flexing to rip the heart from the shopping mall at Gold Coast and introducing another ‘name’ in the dress of Starbucks!

You remember Starbucks, don’t you? They are the people who were shamed into payment of tax by public action in the UK. They take from the community billions of dollars and have to be shamed into contributing to that community’s upkeep. The Hong Kong operation is 100% equity owned by Maxims who already have a staggering 110 outlets in Hong Kong and Macau. We have asked Maxims if they intend to open in Gold Coast and will post their reply as soon as it is received.

No reply so far although the receipt has been received. I have asked for a response and so we still wait.

This received:

The Public Relations Department of Maxim’s has passed me your enquiry. Please feel free to contact me at 2xxx-xxxx.

Thanks,

Maggie

So, we called Maggie. Well,as you might expect she was unforthcoming. She explained that her company never divulged its plans to anyone. Totally understandable and were it me I should say the same.

However, when HKCOASTER asked Maggie if she would deny that Starbucks was planning to come to the Gold Coast , she would/could not. We then asked if her company would be taking over premises at present occupied by an existing tenant. Once again she would/could not deny.

Thank you Maggie, but since I sent my first email to you the overwhelming opinion expressed in and around the Gold Coast is that we have enough coffee shops already and most people are very keen for the existing companies to remain. We have Pacific Coffee, Le Bristol, Medstars, Resto and even MacDonalds who sell coffee. We do not need Starbucks! We know that Sino want big names so they can increase their already extortionate rents, but not Starbucks – PLEASE.

23 December 2012

Met friends for pre chrissy drinks at Medstars when, from the East – ish came a figure clad in a red tunic and black boots. The beard was decidedly odd, it looked rather as if the man had smeared glue on his face, ripped open a feather pillow and buried his sticky face in it. The other strange thing was that he ignored us totally. Did he think we had been ‘naughty’ or, like so many Hong Kong people had a lack of English that made him reticent about approaching us. I don’t think that is fair!

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2 Responses to Gold Coast Stuff

  1. Nhoj the Pirate says:

    If people in GC bothered to go down the road to Sam Tseng they would notice that there is an ‘International’ supermarket (part of Park ‘n’ Shop). Prices in here are anywhere between 2 and 30% cheaper than ‘Market Disgrace’ in the GC. They also have a better selection of goods. Not only that, they don’t add ‘G.A.T’ (Gwailo Added Tax) to imported goods like Market Place do.

  2. Deb says:

    Good job on the blog – spot on re Sino. Just about every tenant has a story/issue with them and even the low rise blocks which used to be so popular are now beginning to empty. Plus, word is now going round that part of Phase 2 is haunted – some very strange stuff being discussed. Hey, perhaps a few spooks around the place will bring the extortionate rents down a touch?

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