Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A welcome to Pamela Ewing

Pamela Ewing
The wonderful Pamela Ewing

You know, this morning when I opened my own personal copy of the Scottish Planner (aka The Barton Willmore Times) I burst out laughing! My fans will know that I'm partial to a bit of dressing up so when I saw the Convenor's Comments on page 3, I assumed that the lovely wee photo top right was Stephen Tucker - in drag. As I've explained before, cross-dressing is rife in the world of planning and property development. It must be some deep-seated desire to have a more interesting life than that of a grim Development Manager.

But after a bit of research I realised that RTPI Scotland has a new Convenor. Stephen Tucker has left the building although his wonderful company Barton Willmore still has a stranglehold on Wee Craigie McLaren's empire, with a bigger logo on the cover of the Scottish Planner than RTPI Scotland. What does that tell you?

So welcome to Convenor Pamela Ewing! Being an older planner, the very name conjures up memories for me of the Dallas TV series and the oil-rich family that inspired the transformation of Aberdeen from a village of gossiping cod wives and farmers into the most successful and dynamic city in Scotland - if not in Europe! Pamela is the Brown Owl of TayPlan, an important strategic organisation that, among other things, keeps perma-tanned Dundee planning boss Mike Galloway in check.  A useful and important role!

Significantly, she is deeply embedded in the public sector so she supports the weak and the feeble - such as those who have written articles for this issue of the Barton Willmore Times - and that's great!  These folk need all the help they can get with their floundering careers!  I'm also full of praise for Pamela because she has laid a glove on the treacherous John Glenday of gossip magazine Urban Realm, pulling him up for his ridiculous and ill-informed Carbuncles Award which my fans will know was presented to Aberdeen this year in a disgraceful and uncalled for attack. Pamela has called out the ignorant Glenday for negative plaice branding but to be honest, I'm not sure if he knows what this means! After all, he is only using the Carbuncles Award to get publicity for his magazine - which is really just 'Hello!' for architects in Scotland. Mind you I could change my mind about that if he would let me write a few articles for it!

But apart from the great news about our Convenor, this issue of the Scottish Planner is very boring. Big Pudding Face Alex Neil MSP presents a dreary article obviously written by a civil servant. Most of the contributors need to go back to school and learn a bit about grammar and sentence construction.  Sadly many fine words are lost in seas of badly punctuated drivel. There seems to be a love of the cliché and the platitude. For example on page 15, 'we must look to the long term and be pragmatic as well as creative'. For goodness sake!  The Barton Willmore Times needs to draw a line under this sort of vanity publishing, exercise stronger editorial control and say a firm no to self aggrandisement.

Also, these contributors look like scary folk with police records - don't they? Barton Willmore need to look at sourcing some more user-friendly photographs from their contributors. Or perhaps this is a calculated move to make public sector folk look ridiculous.
West, Prentice, Hilton and Blyth Prisoners from Cell Block H
West, Prentice, Hilton and Blyth
Prisoners from Cell Block H

I'm impressed by young Pamela though - she seems to have done more in a few weeks than Stephen Tucker did in a year. People say that he was too busy strutting around trying to win work and writing endless dreary articles of self-praise laced with faux-modesty. So it's a clever move by Barton Willmore to bring Pamela on board for the year and I'm looking forward to more from her. I'm also happy to provide her with a list of people that she could lay a glove on next.  As the Barton Willmore empire continues to expand we can only stand back in amazement and applaud their dynamic efforts. 

All the best from Auchterness. I'll be back soon with more exciting news and action from Scotland's dynamic planning scene. Cheeriebye for now!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Kelpies reach the tipping point

The collapsing Kelpies
The collapsing Kelpies

You know, I was delighted to read in the Scotsman that millionaire cliché artist Andy Scott's terrible sculpture on the Forth and Clyde Canal near Falkirk is sinking into the primordial slime from which it should never have emerged in the first place. It will be closed for up to a year.

Apparently a wee woman from San Andreas noticed it was falling over in a time-lapse video she made on a visit there last year. The fact that no one else noticed this is frankly amazing in these days of due diligence and customer care. This would never happen in Auchterness! I'm sure that the consultants who were tasked with ensuring that this large pile of scrap metal stood up will be looking closely at their professional indemnity insurance policies!

Hopefully this will send out a message to Scottish Canals, Scottish Enterprise and Falkirk Council - as well as other public sector agencies trying to badge their regeneration projects with oversized tat - that employing Dreckmeister Scott to produce his patronising and ridiculous scrap metal compositions is never the best way forward. I appreciate how hard it is for regeneration folk to stop saying 'New Visitor Centre and an Andy Scott' or 'New Business Park and an Andy Scott' or 'I have this fantastic idea for a project and an Andy Scott', as if the words 'and an Andy Scott' were some sort of Talisman. These folk require a lot of counselling and care so that they can be relieved of this terrible mindset and hopefully move on to other things.

Disappointingly, there are plans underway to stabilise the structure. This is a serious error of judgement as the better way forward is obviously to let the Kelpies sink slowly into the mud. This would be a fantastic experiential art concept that would be far more meaningful than the original dreck. It might take years to disappear completely but the 'live death' would attract far more visitors than the meagre 350,000 folk who have who have gone to gawp at it so far. I suppose there is nothing else to do in a dump like Falkirk and for people who enjoy Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and The Apprentice, a visit to The Helix is just bringing the cheap thrill outdoors. I'm sure this very cleverly ticks a Green Agenda box somewhere!

But karma is a great thing isn't? That's at least the second of Scott's terrible artworks to suffer an unintended fate. I reported with glee back in February 2011 when the dreadful Man in Motion sculpture at Tullibody was felled and largely destroyed by a selfless motorist. I'm looking forward to the removal of more of these terrible structures which pollute our lovely wee Scottish landscape. Rust in Peace!

It's been a week of great excitement in the Scottish press and planning matters are up front where they deserve to be. I'll be back very soon with more great stories from the world of the expert planner. All the best from Auchterness and cheeriebye for now.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Dandara to demolish Three Kirks at last

How the Triple Kirks site in Aberdeen might look with student housing
How the Triple Kirks site might look with student housing
Union Terrace Gardens in the foreground - excellent
You know, I’ve been supporting the redevelopment of the so called Triple Kirks site in the heart of God’s Own City (Aberdeen) for some time now. I first wrote about it in September 2011 then again in September 2013. Both articles were breathless with enthusiasm and I’m sure you picked up from my eloquent prose how enthusiastic I was about both proposals for the site.

The earlier proposal was by the Honourable Doctor Wee Stewartie Milne, then it was Dandara who stepped up to the plate, their jaws dripping with profit-induced adrenaline. Exciting stuff!
the original proposal - incorporating unnecessary religious heritage
the original proposal - incorporating unnecessary religious heritage

Now Dandara have played a very popular and clever card - moving from Grade A offices to ‘academic accommodation’ - in other words Student Housing! This is an excellent response to what are described as ‘market cycles’ - as reported in the Evening Express. It has also been reported in Urban Realm, Scotland's go-to site for property market gossip and tittle-tattle, where the proposal has been slammed by Tepid Mouse, Big Chantelle, Neo and Darth Vader who are currently John Glenday’s pet architectural critics. I’ll bet Dandara are quivering in their Gucci shoes at this rapier-like analysis of their plans!

Now let’s get a few things straight from an expert planner’s viewpoint. Firstly, their is no question that this proposal will fail - it is definitely going ahead as most developments do these days.

Secondly, I hope that the development will include the demolition of all historic features on the site - they are an impediment to development and a pointless reminder of the days when people actually went to church. If for some extraordinary reason a condition is included in the planning consent that requires retention of old structures, I imagine there will ‘an accident’ during a weekend when a bulldozer driver will loose control momentarily and demolished some listed structures.  I’ve also heard that a fire is often more effective and I’m sure people are thinking about some of the opportunities that flames could bring to the site - both in terms of an event which can be useful in marketing terms, then as a simpler route to the site’s future development, unencumbered by the cold lifeless hand of the past.

Thirdly, students will not be remotely interested in the history of the site or impressed by the retention of redundant structures such as spires or bits of old walls. Their focus will be entirely on earning enough to get by through working in cafes and doing a bit of topless modelling or escort work. That is the reality of student life these days and it is also why a very basic set of buildings is all that will be required on the site - no frills required as the buildings will only be used for sleeping! Maybe they don’t even need windows!

Finally, it is absolutely the case that student accommodation can have a positive effect on surrounding areas - supermarkets like Tesco Metro and Sainsburys Local, as well as Greggs and other well known brands will be up on their hind legs begging for a slice of student cash. It’s what we expert planners call synergy!

So what's not to like about this stunning intervention? I thoroughly commend it to you all and hope that Aberdeen and Dandara seize the opportunity to create a new development on the cleared site of the former Three Kirks. It makes sense for Dandara, for students and for the supermarkets. For this great city, it is another perfect opportunity to defy the miserable heritage and conservation lobby and grind them, together with their sandals and shorts, into the dust. A massive new erection on this site will be magnificent addition to the city, moving forward.

All the best from Auchterness. I hope you are having a happy Easter break. Cheeriebye for now and don’t forget to drop in for a nice wee cup of tea and a biscuit if you are passing. I think it might by Custard Creams this week!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Nesting in Laurieston

Did you get the Lorne Sausage darling?
Did you get the Lorne Sausage darling?
You know, when one of my fans drew my attention to the website of Laurieston Living I couldn't see what he was on about. But then I started to dig deeper and realised that this revolutionary project was the work of the spivs that run RTPI Scotland and the Scottish Planner magazine - Barton Willmore.

Now I've explained in a previous post that it was a considerable coup by Barton Willmore to turn the mouthpiece of RTPI Scotland into the Barton Willmore Times with regular excruciating homilies by Stephen Tucker in praise of himself while taking control of the design and publication of the 'learned journal'. It was a major victory that was Pravda-esque in its scope and execution! A private consultancy had finally taken over the RTPI's Branch office in Scotland. My hearty congratulations go out again to everyone who was involved in this!

Now the same team have set their sights on the gentrification of Laurieston in the Gorbals of Glasgow - and not before time either! It's a slum area filled with rats in black plastic bags and stolen cars. It should have been regenerated years ago.
Love your selfie stick darling!
Someone at work said they were going to live in Laurieston darling!
Can you believe that? Hahaha!

Now the Lauriston Living website is truly breathtaking in its unashamed pandering to comfy middle class values.  There are nudge-nudge jokes like the people seen preparing a healthy meal of some disgusting salad - there isn't a piece of Lorne Sausage in sight so that can't be right! There's a picture of a couple about to have sex and another nice wee photie of another couple pretending to do a crossword. Amazing and aspirational! I wasn't sure if I was excited or if my flesh was crawling - either way it was a good edgy feeling!

Now as an expert planner, I hoped to be able to bring you my analysis of the development. I expected to see some fantastic artists impressions of the future but it was not to be - there isn't one single picture of the new buildings anywhere on the site! This is a startling and brave innovation. The great unwashed will have nothing to complain about! The insightful architectural critics of the Urban Realm website will have nothing to gossip about. It's a stroke of genius and a model for the future. We all know that planning consent will be phased out in the next few years but in the meantime, giving next to no details of development proposals is a step in the right direction and will speed up the approval process considerably.
4 across - Man's best friend - three letters...what can it be?
4 across - Man's best friend - three letters...what can it be?

I'm looking forward to seeing this development revolutionise the way people live in Glasgow and Barton Willmore are the very people to do this.  They are undoubtedly Scotland's most innovative and thoughtful planning consultancy and have basically left other planning firms in the dust through their ambitious forays into the Planning Establishment where they have literally changed the landscape of practice. If they teamed up with Halliday Fraser Munro or Keppies we would all be in Seventh Heaven!  The tumescence of this fine company and its ability to penetrate and push its way around will find favour with many readers of the Scottish Planner. I'm sure this new erection will be one of the finest in Scotland if not in Europe and I thoroughly commend it to all of my fans. And I'm sure that our leader Wee Craigie McLaren will be well pleased that this has happened on his watch.

All the best from Auchterness. I'll be back again soon with more exciting tales from the world of town planning in Scotland. Cheeriebye for now.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Lost for words

Leaving Elgin Station

You know, I was on the Scotrail express to Aberdeen last week when someone suddenly engaged me in conversation, seeking my advice about a career in planning. He had recognised me instantly of course and as an expert planner, I was happy to help a young planner at a formative stage in his life.

This young man worked for a well-known local authority in the area - let's call it Moray Council to calm idle speculation - and was concerned that his career had stalled. He asked me two questions:
  1. How can I became famous and well respected like you?
  2. How can I learn to write like Nikola Miller of the RTPI and the Scottish Planner?
Well the answer to the first question is inevitably a mixture of innate talent, being in the right place at the right time but most importantly, having a distinctive voice in the marketplace. "The marketplace?" he asked. "Yes of course" I replied. "Everything is a marketplace these days. Just look at your own Council with its internal market, departments charging other departments to come to their meetings and of course charging the public for wanting to do anything! That's a great move! In a similar way, my success as an expert planner is due to my position in the marketplace. I'm in demand as a public speaker because of my lovely wee blog which receives thousands of hits every week. Now I may not be able to charge the same as Tory grandee Malcolm Rifkind but I will at least get a Greggs sausage roll and a cup of tea. And just like Jim Murphy I always claim everything on expenses."

"So what about my writing skills - how can I get myself in the Scottish Planner?" he asked. "How can I be like Nikola Miller?"

"Well I'll let you into a little secret” I said. "I always try to memorise around 100 important words or phrases that I can join together - often randomly - to make up paragraphs of impressive sounding texts. Using this technique you can impress many people and importantly, build a useful barrier between yourself as a professional and members of the public who won't know what you are talking about. This is an ideal situation in which many planners shine - but I am exemplary".

"Let's set ourselves a little task shall we? Before we get to Aberdeen I will compile three paragraphs describing my important work at Auchterness." This is what I wrote.

At Auchterness we are unique and one of a kind - leading, legendary, proactive, best in class, scalable, empowering, targeted and ground-breaking. Our vision statement is a secret sauce made from low hanging fruit.  Moving forward, we sense-check and explore league tables, massaging their revolutionary feel-good factors to reinforce not only our award-winning and innovative solutions but also, to seamlessly transform POI and breakthrough savvy into a robust user-friendly cloud of leveraged and sustainable best practice. This satisfies our client structures and content providers. Our next generation state-of the-art dynamism is world class and cutting edge. Auchterness is simply the smartest and most flexible real-time premier provider of leading innovation in Europe - if not in the World!

A market-leading, turnkey, mission critical strategic partnership with a ground-breaking dashboard and iconic stakeholders, Auchterness is now an industry standard with a never-before-re-purposed ecosystem. It's a win-win, best of breed position of empowerment with enterprise-class synergy straight out of the box. It is a magical and feature-rich, cross-platform value proposition well positioned to disrupt the stack and hit the ground running.

Moving forward, our mindshare bleeding-edge space-age exit strategy is customer-centric and will ensure a sea-change paradigm-shift outside the box. With sticky synergistic client-centric peak performance, Auchterness is creating the perfect storm of next-gen organic growth which combines top down silo thinking with bottom up never-been-done before solution-driven uniqueness.

"That is fantastic Mr Thompson - thank you for this insight into the mindset of the expert planner. Truly you are one of our Nation's great thought leaders". And so another problem solved and another young man sent happily on his way to a glistening career in planning.

That's all from Auchterness for now. Sorry to have been so slow in publishing new articles this year but we have been very busy. I will get back into my stride soon. Remember, you can always drop in for a wee chat and a biscuit any time you are passing.  Cheeriebye for now!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Marischal Square is so fabulous!

the fantastic new Marischal Square development  -Halliday Fraser Munro at their best
the fantastic new Marischal Square development
-Halliday Fraser Munro at their best
You know, when one of my fans sent me a message on Twitter last week suggesting that I comment on the latest developments at Marischal Square in Aberdeen I was immediately excited. In fact I was all lubed up and ready to go!

You will recall that I wrote an excellent appraisal of this fantastic development back in September 2013 but much has happened since then. The development has matured over the past 18 months. It has been stripped back to produce more profit for those loveable rogues Muse Developments who are at the helm of this magnificent erection, aided and abetted by the amazing Halliday Fraser Munro and a team of pimps, place-men and puppets. You see the Council has invited Muse into bed with them so someone has to clean the sheets afterwards!

As readers of my lovely wee blog will know, when Big John Halliday waves his enormous pencil around in Aberdeen, everyone appreciates the sheer length and breadth of his talent - that goes without saying! Of course he has many other tools at his disposal such as GCI which, for the ignorant, is a computer program that creates life-like pictures of future proposals. It’s like the old fashioned artist’s impression - but completely different! It’s a means of convincing the great unwashed that either the development has already been built and there is nothing they can do about it or that it is going to be so great and filled with so many beautiful people that they say ‘Big John, you are so talented and deserve my respect. Truly you are the Scottish Le Corbusier!’
Isn't this just great? I'm sure the old couple are loving it!
Isn't this just great? I'm sure the old couple are loving it!

Of course the plebs don’t like this development much and that includes many architects. Look for example at the comment pages of the trashy and ill-informed Urban Realm website where the treacherous John Glenday orchestrates dissent and hatred of all new development. In this case, Wonky, Don Diamante, Andrew Broon, Boaby Wan, and Stevie Steve have all contributed their best efforts at architectural criticism, entirely unaware of the fact that they simply don’t matter! Poor souls - even Glenday himself hasn’t the heart to moderate the comments. Of course he needs all the publicity he can get for his gossip rag so the more ignorant and inane the comments, the better it is for Urban Realm.

Anyway, let’s look at the latest GCIs from my expert planner’s point of view. Well - where do I start? This is one of the biggest erections seen in Aberdeen in the last few years and certainly a tasty mouthful. It’s the essential meat and two veg in any planner’s lunchbox and definitely fills a big gap!
the fantastic new development on the right - spellbinding!
the fantastic new development on the right - spellbinding!
I’m looking at the amazing view from George Street up to Marischal College: the imperious grey facades of the new development on the right immediately look superior to the dingy granite of the traditional buildings on the left - which will hopefully be swept away soon. I am confident about this because there is no place for sentiment in Aberdeen. Unbelievably, this great view prompted more than 4,000 campaigners to sign a petition calling for the plans to be rejected in favour of more open space. You couldn’t make it up, could you? It was so obvious that the original proposals were just a cunning trick to give the impression that Muse and HFM actually cared about what was built when in truth they only care about the bottom line!

I honestly cannot understand why developers bother trying to convince the Aberdeen public at all. What eventuates on this site will be the sole business of Muse - and that’s the way it should be! What possible contribution could a bunch of ignorant fishermen, riggers and ex-farmers make to this project anyway? It is completely wrong-headed!

So my hearty congratulations go out to Muse Developments, Halliday Fraser Munro and Aberdeen City Council - together with their team of pimps and stooges. It’s a magnificent victory for the development industry and for the planners who will approve this fantastic erection. It earns a gold star and nine out of ten in my little black book. If they hadn’t bothered with consultation it would have been a clear ten!

All the best from Auchterness - I’ll be back soon!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Neighbour Notification Notices

A typical scene from the slums of Fairmilehead
A typical scene from the slums of Fairmilehead

Hello and a Happy New Year from Auchterness! Let's get straight down to business!

You know, when I received a Neighbour Notification Notice last week from my Local Council I thought I would use it as one of my occasional advice notes on planning matters, prepared for you by your own expert planner. What could be better?

Now I know a lot of people quiver when they receive these notices. What do they mean? What should I do? Well my advice is to do nothing! I threw mine away without even looking at it! By throwing the notice away without objecting or asking tedious questions you will be playing an important role in The Enterprise and the future of our lovely wee country. I’ll tell you why. What this notice is actually saying is that the Council has received a planning application for a development which it is going to approve. It’s as simple as that! No need to worry about objecting or any such nonsense - you will be wasting your time.

Let me give you some recent examples:
  • Construction of 20 houses in the greenbelt on a Site of Special Scientific Interest - PLANNING PERMISSION GRANTED
  • Installation of UPVC Windows and Doors in a Category B Listed Building - LISTED BUILDING CONSENT APPROVED
  • Painting of External Walls of Buildings in Outstanding Conservation Area in Purple - APPROVED
Are you getting the message? Perhaps you need a little more information!
  • Application for 70 Wind Turbines in a National Scenic Area - APPROVED
  • Development of Business Units on a former Public Park - PLANNING PERMISSION GRANTED
  • Development of 700 Student Flats adjacent to a Category A Listed Building - PLANNING PERMISSION GRANTED
Great isn’t it! You see nothing can stop what we expert planners call Enabling Development. Nothing can stop the March of The Enterprise towards Total Sustainable Economic Development (TSED). We could call it the Aberdeenification of the country!

The next logical step in the process of enabling will be for Planning Applications to become unnecessary. This is to all intents and purposes the current situation as almost every application is approved anyway. Quite right too! It’s a victory for common sense and for The Enterprise. Nosey Parkers, Conservationists and Quiche-Eating Nimby Lesbians are all history. The World has changed! Wee Craigie McLaren and RTPI Scotland have triumphed. The days of women with greasy hair or even shaved heads having a say in planning matters are over. Over I tell you!

Take my advice. Next time you read an article by our own Wee Nikola Miller in the Scottish Planner Magazine you will sense the triumphalism in her astounding prose! The sense that the world has been put to rights! A sense that we have reached peak enterprise! A sense that we have run out of exclamation marks!

Personally I would love to find a woman who was strong enough to approve planning applications without even thinking about it! Exciting! A woman confident in her actions who can go all the way with a developer’s agent - to the ends of the earth if necessary! A woman who isn’t afraid to spread mustard over a sizzling sausage and bring home the developer's bacon. A woman who regards planning conditions as the namby-pamby compromise that they are!

You know, I think 2015 will be a fantastic year for everyone involved in our great profession. There is so much to look forward to. Here at Auchterness I will be pressing for wider exposure - since John Glenday at Urban Realm has rejected me as a monthly correspondent perhaps a series in the People’s Friend might be the way forward. Or perhaps the Sunday Post! We will wait and see. I will write to the treacherous Glenday again though I don’t want to seem desperate. I will keep you in the loop one way or the other.

Cheeriebye for now from Auchterness. Lang may yer lum reek! Don’t forget to drop into Auchterness for a nice wee chat and a cup of tea and a biscuit if you are in the vicinity. I think it’s Rich Abernethy this week.