Why choose Southampton? With Daniel Fitzhenry of Southampton City Council

12 Feb 2022
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Why choose Southampton? With Daniel Fitzhenry of Southampton City Council

In the very first episode of Let’s Talk South Coast, Nella Pang is joined by Southampton City Council Leader, Daniel Fitzhenry to discuss all things Southampton.

They discuss why Southampton is the place to invest, how Southampton can work towards overcoming obstacles in the future of work as well as providing good work-life balance. They touched on how Southampton is combating climate change and what support is available for businesses in the area post COVID-19. 


Key Insights From This Episode: 

        • My success has been the result of standing on the shoulders of many giants – Daniel
        • We have the potential, we have the ability, we have the capability, we have all the raw materials, we have all the people, we have all the money and the ideas. What we are lacking is who do we want to be? – Daniel 
        • Southampton has a Rolls Royce engine and we’ve gotten into the habit of thinking we are a clapped-out Morris Minor on the side of the road. – Daniel
        • Southampton is truly a global freeport. – Daniel 
        • Looking back at previous case studies and the industrial revolution, thinking about how we’ve all gone through change and how do we adapt to it? The key is to not stagnate. – Nella
        • We’re a very resilient region. – Nella
        • Southampton is a place that can really give people the work life balance. – Nella 
        • Home working full-stop, in my opinion, is not good for people’s social environments. – Daniel
        • Very few places can offer you green open space and public parks and national parks, connectivity to the world and closeness to London but also a phenomenal business growth opportunity. – Daniel

About Our Guests:

Daniel Fitzhenry, Leader of Southampton City Council. Southampton elected Daniel Fitzhenry as its new City Council Leader, taking the helm of a city in which, he was born and bred.

It is the most recent milestone in Daniel’s remarkable political career, who at the age of just 14 was elected as the first member of the Youth Parliament to represent Southampton on a national scale.

As a business owner, and as a Politician, Daniel’s enthusiasm and positivity are driven by his abiding aspirations to help the city and its people to flourish.  Here, the visionary leader explains why right now is Southampton’s era of opportunity. 


[1:30] You have been a city council member from a very young age.  What has your experience been so far since being elected as the Southampton councillor?

  • I was elected in 2008 at the age of 22 and now 14 years in. I am learning every day and it has been great fun. 
  • Since May 2020, I have been the leader of the council and in my 14 years I have worked my way through different roles. More importantly my success is the result of standing on the shoulders of many giants who I’ve learned from.

[2:35] Southampton has strong ambitions particularly to raise our global presence.  Do you think we have the ability to be the next Singapore?

  • We are determining what we want to be. 
  • We have the potential, we have the ability, we have the capability, we have all the raw materials, we have all the people, we have all the money and the ideas. What we are lacking is – who do we want to be? 
  • The biggest thing our region suffers with is the belief that we can go do it. 
  • We are a phenomenal component to UK PLC, both in economic terms but because this is a great place to live, work and enjoy life.

[3:45] The three factors that make Singapore so great are obviously its strategic location, friendly policies to be adopted by the government and the fact that the government is very honest about bringing forward new trades. How are you connecting with the rest of the market?

  • We have been following our city of culture, which gets submitted in the next few weeks.  We have talked to Miami, the Middle East and India.  We’ve been meeting different people from all around the world and we already have these global trade links.
  • 2022 now is about formalising and figuring out how we build real strong economic links with the rest of the world and really drive those economic links into cultural, social, and broader economic links to level up the opportunity for people.

[5:20] You mentioned that, it is about getting people to believe. Do you have some interesting stats that you can share with our audience?

  • 90% of the exports that leave Southampton go out of the EU.
  •  We have a large number of people who have been prescribed antidepressants as adults.
  • Quite a number of young children now are on free school meals. 
  • We also have challenges with poverty and deprivation across the city.
  • We’ve got employment in the mid-seventies percent but there’s still a large number of people that are not actively in work, but want to do something.

[7:10] What can we do or how can we help to overcome these issues?

  • We’ve got to get to the belief that we can be better than what we are, because that creates a natural momentum. 
  • We want you to see the benefits of what a council can do when it’s focused. That creates belief for all of us, and trust and relationships.

[8:40] Do you have any positive affirmations that you do regularly?

  • From 2018 to 2020, when I was leader of the opposition, every day I would say, “I’m going to be leader of the council.” 
  • Our mind is a garden and it gives us what we plant in it.
  • You can have anything you want, if you give everyone else what they want. The more we serve one another the more we benefit.

[11:15] What’s the biggest area that you are most curious about right now and why?

  • How the economy is going to adapt to this real shift that’s mentally going on. 
  • There was a collaborative concept now of people understanding we are more an ecosystem that all things affect one another. 
  • How do we take this opportunity and this wealth creation potential, beyond the boundaries that it usually had, because we’re all capitalists, we believe in a capitalist system. 
  • How those things post the COVID-19 pandemic, the new way of thinking translates through the new leaders, thinkers, drivers, changes, innovators, drive the economy and what that does.

[13:55] We all have a role to play in the success of our region. What is the one thing that would support the growth and help you in your mission?

  • The one thing that everybody can do today right now is begin to believe one in themselves and the power of this region and area.
  • Putting together a group of key leaders that can then help drive the economy and key change.

[15:30] The investors that are looking to invest in the South Coast, in Southampton, where do you see there are the opportunities, what are the areas that we should be highlighting to them? 

  • Freeport which will obviously kick-off is an area that already exists.
  • UK City of Culture bid. 
  • An airport – all being well, the runway will get properly approved.
  • The port where cruise passengers are admitted, and we are looking to double over the next 10 – 15 years.
  • We need to build 28,000 new residential units in the next 20 years. 
  • We need to have some form of rail; monorail or train network, which requires capital.   

[18:55] Let’s talk high street, how do you adapt to the ever evolving trend of online shopping and how does the high street change with it?

  • The first thing with retail is that it is moving from being transactional, shopping to experiential.
  • Retail floor coverage is probably going to shrink in some areas.
  • We removed evening parking charges as a city to help stimulate people coming into the city centre.
  • One of the challenges we have is we don’t have enough people living in the city centre so a solution to supporting the high street is having more residents living next door.
  • Invest in public realm, parks and public spaces. 
  • We’ll be running some Southampton’s successes doing interviews with success stories and businesses and promoting people who have started business.   

[23:20] What is your definition of work-life balance? 

  • You have to keep your glass full mentally, socially, and emotionally. 
  • Our work should be rewarding, but it shouldn’t control us. 
  • The key bit of work-life balance is what is my purpose and vision of life? What do I want to achieve and why? 
  • The less you put your foot on the gas, the more it will happen, but when you put your foot on your gas, you really mean it.

[25:40] What has the impact of home working been on the town centres, the future of work and the changing commuting patterns?

  • We’ve done pretty well in terms of retail, hospitality and numbers.
  • People are spending more time in the area that they’re in and appreciating that more, and that has some real benefits because people are commuting less out of our city and spending more time here.  
  • We haven’t seen a huge impact on the high street, we are seeing some, but we’ve counteracted that. 
  • If we can get this real balance again, between office/remote/in person and blend all that together, we would see that people have free time to do stuff and spend time with their family. It also allows them to see their colleagues and work with people. In doing all this, it gives people time to be more involved in their community. 

[28:20] Could you just share about the business grants and what else is out there that can support the growth of businesses?

[30:45] What is the Southampton council doing in terms of Climate Change? We unfortunately have got a bad reputation being one of the most polluted cities, and that comes with having one of the largest ports.

  • Our air pollution is probably better than it’s ever been. 
  • We have to take a balanced approach.
  • All the assets, buildings and vehicles that we operate will be carbon neutral by 2030.
  • We’re a big landlord and the buildings were built in fifties and sixties and they need upgrading. We working on how we decarbonize those by 2040. 
  • For the city, we’re saying by 2050 we want to be carbon neutral.
  • We want to be at the forefront of low carbon aviation.  

[35:15] Quick fire questions

1)  Who are the movers and shakers of our region? Is there an individual or an association that you would recommend so that people stay well informed about the region? 

  • Council leaders in my role, leaders of the country, leaders of Southampton and leaders of other areas like Portsmouth. 
  • ABP
  • Paul Smith
  • Peter Taylor from Paris Smith
  • The Universities on the South Coast

2) What is the best thing about living on the south coast?

  • I love the water. It’s so peaceful and calm, but there’s so much going on, you can hear the humming of the docs in the background, yet you look at the water and it’s just so still. 

3) Why do you believe that the South Coast is the place to invest? 

  • Very few places can offer you green open space and public parks and national parks, connectivity to the world and closeness to London but also a phenomenal business growth opportunity.


Companies Mentioned:

Shout Outs:

About Our Host

Nella Pang

I left the corporate world in 2020 and launched Omega RE a commercial advisory firm in a pandemic, whilst on maternity. Brave some people would say. 🚀

The pandemic has taught many of us a thing or two, particularly on how we can do business. I support businesses to navigate the complexities of Commercial Real Estate, so they can achieve their business objectives through their Real Estate decisions.

Lease negotiations can be a minefield. Even small mistakes can drive up costs. That’s why I will represent your interests every step of the way, ensuring you receive full value of our experience and market knowledge.

With over 18 years’ experience in the Commercial Property Market having worked for the big corporates Jones Lang LaSalle Limited, BNP Paribas Real Estate and Vail Williams.

I want to be able to share my corporate knowledge with my clients, whilst offering a more personal dedicated commercial advisory service.

Having acted for a wide range of clients from major pension funds to private investors, small businesses and individuals. I love meeting people and I am passionate about adding value to my clients business and watching their business thrive.

About Omega RE

Omega RE is commercial property advisory firm based on the South Coast. Providing expert advice to Landlords, Occupiers in the industrial, office and retail markets.

Omega RE is always thinking ‘Outside the Box’ in our advice to clients and the way we do business. We don’t settle for mediocre, we challenge the norm and are dedicated to finding solutions that is best for our clients.

We are a people business, based on strong relationships and partnerships, and we offer a personal level of service.

As the market evolves, we will too adapt to be successful and want the same for our clients. We are committed to finding innovative ways of marketing and how to do things more efficiently.

We will never stagnate.

We are disciplined in everything we do, we take time to understand the situation and set a bespoke strategy for each client. Not one size fits all. We do not cut corners or take short cuts and our integrity is undisputed.

Providing clients’ a hands on approach to finding the perfect property; office, industrial, warehouse or retail space to meet business needs and negotiating the best commercial lease terms, is what we do best.

We come to work because we’re passionate about providing expert, innovative, independent advice to clients. We want to help businesses navigate the complexities of Commercial Real Estate.

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