Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aberdeen and the Mafia

Gonorreah controlled Aberdeen
You know, we've been very busy at Auchterness over the last few weeks. In fact my lovely wee blog has had to take second place to the major issues we have had to face such as the brain-drain to Inverurie and trying to implement the Sir Malcolm Fraser proposals for our town centre. Of course the Independence Referendum has interfered with my ability to say what I want to say because of Purdie. I've tried to find out who this person is but have failed so far.

It may be old news to many of you but a few weeks ago I came across an article in the Scotsman entitled 'Mafia tightens its grip on Aberdeen'. Ridiculous and typical of what appears in the loathsome Tory rag that once was the respected authority on Scottish News. Now it is as bad as the Scottish Planner. It seems to me that there is a conspiracy against the greatest city in Europe - if not the World. First of all the great motivators and entrepreneurs of the city are described as Masons. Then they are part of a vast Gay and Lesbian conspiracy involving dressing up for allegedly pointless Honorary Degree ceremonies. Now they are apparently part of the Mafia with allegations of violence and corruption in the world of vermicelli, ice cream and fish suppers. The Gomorrah are allegedly intimately involved in the city’s catering, retail and property sectors - not to mention public works!

You know, Sir Ian Woods has been described as a sort of Darth Vader character but for me, the Godfather image does seem more appropriate. Personally I would bend down and kiss his ring if it meant that I could become part of Team Aberdeen! So would Wee Craigie McLaren! 
A Pokey Hat
I would be delighted to sell pokey-hats in Union Terrace Gardens if I could experience the amazing buzz of being part of the Aberdeen Enterprise Experience!

So when I read about the Gonorreah in a useless Tory Rag and calls for Police action against them, frankly I don't care. The press and others, including RTPI Scotland can try to besmirch the reputation of the great ones but in reality they are immune - beyond criticism. They are part of the New Scottish Enlightenment - nothing can stand in their way.

Have a great week and sorry to be so brief - September will bring much more news. Cheeriebye for now.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The real heroes of planning

Govan - from The Planner, photographed by the great Andrew Lee
You know, for the past few months I've tried to ignore the RTPI and it's awful publications. I have fought against the fat planners from London and the unspeakably self regarding RTPI Scotland but I appreciate too that this is probably quite boring for my fans who really just want to hear about the adventures of an expert planner - like me!

However I received my own personal copy of the The Planner last week - 'The business monthly for planning professionals' - and I must admit that it gave me the dry boke. In particular, there is an article about the renaissance of Govan, apparently 'thanks to an RTPI Award-Winning Project'. I'm quoting this because it sums up the shameless dishonesty of the goons in London - and how quickly they have rushed to claim this project as one of their own after many fine people in 'the town' of Govan and Glasgow (who are not RTPI Members) have worked tirelessly to make it happen.

This sort of thing is nothing new of course. I remember back in my days with Scottish Enterprise, many of our esteemed thought leaders were adept at claiming responsibility for work that local councils had done. Goodness knows how the councils managed it - after all they spent half the morning eating bacon rolls and most of the afternoons on 'site visits'. The rest of the time they were in the toilet reading the Daily Record.
Scottish Planner cover
Anyway, this seems to be an accepted part of RTPI practice now. Just look at the latest issue of SP - the Scottish Planner sponsored of course by Barton Willmore and headed up by their stooge Stephen Tucker. The picture on the cover is of a loving couple about to commit suicide from a cliff-top above Edinburgh. I assume they are planners who have read an article from a previous SP in which RTPI Scotland staff murder the English language, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. The latest SP asks the question, 'What is Scotland's Best Plaice?' and follows through with a mind-numbing parade of who's who in Scottish Planning and their predictably dull self-promoting twaddle, desperate to associate themselves with projects that others have been responsible for or which would have happened anyway.

The contrast with my heroes of the New Scottish Enlightenment is vivid! With the Honarary Dr Donald Trump, the Honarary Dr Wee Stuartie Milne or with Sir John Halliday of Halliday Fraser Munro and his large pencil you know exactly what has been done and who is responsible. No special pleading, no lies or exaggeration. Bang! - you have a wonderful project!
The great Sir Ewan Jamieson Of Clydeport 
When I read this week that another great man, Sir Ewan Jamieson of Clydeport, had single-handedly been granted planning consent for student accommodation on the banks of the Kelvin (otherwise known as Glasgow Harbour and a project that you heard about first on my lovely wee blog) I was filled with admiration. But of course the question is 'Who approved this development in Glasgow City Council?' and why is he or she not mentioned in the Scottish Planner? Why hasn't this planner won an award? An RTPI Award? That's the crux of it!

We are asked to swallow a pack of fairy stories from faceless goons in London and Edinburgh lining their own canoes with half truths and puffing themselves up like gannets on the seafront in their Marks and Spencer suits. Meanwhile a generation of real planners - those who have approved projects by Trump, Stewart Milne Homes and Clydeport are left in anonymity. It doesn't seem fair to me.

Apologies for the rant. Best wishes from Auchterness and remember, you are always welcome to drop in for a wee chat, a cup of tea and a biscuit. Rich Abernethy this week! Cheeriebye for now!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Aberdeen's Pocket Genius

Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne
Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne
You know, when we all grow old and start reminiscing about the good times and the great things we have experienced as planners in our respective illustrious careers, it won't be the talking heads of Scottish Planning that come to mind. I won't mention names and really I don't need to - you all know who they are. And so do they! They turn up at Chapter meetings full of themselves and the latest ideas that they have appropriated from brighter folk and then trivialised for mass consumption.

No! It will be the astonishing success of planning in Aberdeen - in our lifetime. I read in the Press and Journal this week that Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne has submitted a proposal of application notice for a residential development with parking at the Cloverleaf Hotel in Bucksburn. Apparently the hotel will be toast! A spokeswoman for the company said yesterday that the building on Kepplehills Drive would be demolished.
Crying out to be demolished - Cloverleaf Hotel
Crying out to be demolished - Cloverleaf Hotel

The firm plans to build houses on the site, but the spokeswoman said it was too early to say how many properties there might be. As an Expert Planner, I know the answer to that. "As many as possible!"  Back in June, the Stewart Milne Group was poised to buy the five-star Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen, with plans for a luxury housing development on the site. Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne confirmed that the company had an option to acquire the North Deeside Road site.

Even to the stupid talking heads of Scottish Planning the pattern should be obvious. I talked recently about mono-use and how it was the coming thing - in fact mono-use is the new mixed use. These hotels are now seen as 'non-conforming uses'* and will be swept away before you can say ‘Section 63 Notice!’
*(that's a term that I don't expect you all to understand but please just accept that we expert planners use these words to communicate clearly with each other) 

In the same article, it was announced that plans have also been lodged for a new six-storey 200 room hotel as part of a business park development near Aberdeen International Airport. ABZ of course and I have written before about this clever development from the big pencil of John Halliday himself!

The £15m venture from hotel operator Moxy would be its first in the UK. The firm already trades in Milan and plans to open an outlet in London as well as Oslo in Norway and Munich, Berlin, and Frankfurt in Germany. Amazing isn't it - Auchterness brought you this news first! So Aberdeen is viewed very much as an international city and centre of the Oil Universe!

So hotels are being cleared out of residential areas and better hotels are appearing on business parks. Soon we may have hotel parks - that would be logical. And guess who is centre stage in all this - Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne - the pocket genius responsible in part for the implementation of the New Scottish Enlightenment in the Aberdeen area.

You know, as winter approaches and we all gather round the log fire with our mugs of Ovaltine to speak in hushed tones about plaicemaking and exchange stories about Copenhagen and other second rate European cities, we will do well to remember that one of our very own cities has had a magnificent year - a year that has completely eclipsed the achievements of European upstarts like Antwerp, Malmo or Stockholm. Let’s celebrate this wonderful achievement now!

Have a great weekend! Best wishes from Auchterness. Cheeriebye for now.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Wonder of Dobbies

The wonderful Dobbies entrance
The wonderful Dobbies entrance
You know, I was down in Aberdeen again the other day on important Auchterness business and on my way back home I took some time out to visit Dobbies Garden Centre with Duncan, a business colleague. I needed some things for the garden - my big plan is to replace my lawn with artificial grass. It will demonstrate that as an Expert Planner, I am prepared to embrace new ideas and look to the future. The name AstroTurf has a science fiction sound to it that appeals to me. Most planners don't actually think about the long term these days - just 'enabling' the short term so again, your favourite expert planner is ahead of the game. Duncan laughed scornfully at my ambition.

As I drove from Albyn Place to the Lang Stracht I felt tension mounting as we negotiated each and every sponsored roundabout on the way. I felt a frisson of excitement as I always do when visiting any retail park. The crowds, the cash registers, the happy faces of satisfied customers - it's all tremendously stimulating. My driving became more and more erratic and I knew that the back of my shirt was soaked with sweat. I stalled the car at the Queen's Road roundabout but we eventually arrived safely at Dobbies. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Duncan laughing at me.
Better than an Andy Scott - a big man weeds his garden at Dobbies, Aberdeen
Better than an Andy Scott - a big man weeds his garden
 at Dobbies, Aberdeen

What a place! At the entrance there is a large sculpture of a figure weeding the garden - fantastic and better than an Andy Scott any day! Pure taste and style! Not a horse in sight!

First of all we went to the sumptuous restaurant where there was the most fantastic display of food. It was carefully themed in brown and red tones - all the cakes were either light brown, pink or red and covered in cream or icing. The hot food was brown too - not a green vegetable in sight. This is a very clever move on the part of Dobbies as they are of course catering for the plebs rather than people with sophisticated palettes - like me. I think this is what pretentious middle-class know-alls call junk food. So be it.

We ordered a coffee, a pot of tea and a couple of Empire Biscuits. “That will be £10.15”, said the wee lassie. I questioned the amount immediately! “Oops! I’ve charged you for three biscuits instead of two.” I’m a man of the world and I’ve seen this trick before - it’s one way in which poorly paid staff can supplement their wages!

I marvelled at the range of water fountains on display - just like the Ville d'Este at Tivoli. A hundred lovely fountains all bubbling away. Who would have guessed that there could be so many different styles - elephant’s trunks, little cherubs, fish, hedgehogs, poultry and pigs - all with water spouting from somewhere. I saw an enormous swinging treehouse made of rattan which could seat four people around a small dinner table as it dangled from a steel girder. It could be a great addition to my garden - a talking point and a wonderful piece of one-upmanship.

As we wandered round looking for my AstroTurf the scale of Dobbies success gradually dawned on me – I was in raptures, as any planner worth his salt would be. Duncan said it was just a wee nursery that had gone from being a caring local business - "inspiring gardeners since 1865" - to a huge industry that sells junk food and overpriced tat to the roughs. I disagreed and countered, stating that Dobbies current status was a huge achievement, a great day out for people who don’t care much about anything and who just wanted to relax with a bit of retail therapy. But it’s also a marketing triumph for the company and reflects well on the dedicated planners who grant their applications and therefore support The Enterprise. Firms like Dobbies are all part of the New Scottish Enlightenment and it is only right that planners approve all of their proposals without hesitation or delay.

We called in at B&Q Inverurie on the way home so it was a double treat for me! Duncan needed some paint to finish off his bedroom renovation that evening. I offered to help but he said he was fine - a woman was coming round later to clean his brush. He grinned broadly. It was only after I got home that I realised what he meant. I will make some suggestions to him about his behaviour in an email tomorrow.

I'm full of praise for Dobbies and will add the company to my list of Great Retail Regenerators like Asda and Tesco. I hope you agree. Best wishes for the week ahead from Auchterness – hope you have a great time planning something nice. Cheeriebye for now.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Hot topic at Houndwood!

Houndwood Crematorium

You know, they say there's no smoke without fire and I was amused this week to read about the power of one individual over the operators of a new crematorium at Houndwood near Coldingham in the Scottish Borders.

According to the Daily Record, which I read in the Auchterness Executive Toilet the other day, Dr Fraser Quin has threatened to enforce a 1902 law which states that funeral bosses must get approval from property owners living within 200 yards of their operation before they can fire up their ovens – and his house is 183 yards away so the opening of the £2million crematorium has been blocked. Like Glasgow School of Art only a few weeks ago, this is obviously a burning issue for Dr Quin but many of his neighbours see it differently - some have given the facility a warm hello while others are raking the ashes of resentment.

It is a strange tail. The new crematorium is housed in an old church which is a listed building. Regular Auchterness readers will know that the obvious answer to this would have been to demolish the building and turn the site into a development opportunity for housing. But sadly it was not to be - some bright spark got all fired up about this and before you could say 'towering inferno', the operators cooked up a plan which has now gone from the frying pan literally into the fire. They should have done their homework because now their ideas are toast!

Dr Quin doesn't want this facility and who could blame him. He's looking for £350,000 from the operators to buy his house. He is assuming they have money to burn. Many neighbours would doubtless follow suit as they will soon get fed up with the dreary parade of long faces and the smoke signals from the church getting their washing dirty, not to mention 'Angel' by Robbie Williams booming out daily from the humanist events of daft families with no taste.

This is a great story about how an individual - stubborn by his own admission but perhaps with time to burn researching his rights - can face down a silly proposal and in effect, fight fire with fire.

My hearty congratulations go out to Dr Quin - lang may his lum reek! Cheeriebye from Auchterness and have a great weekend.

Monday, 30 June 2014

A New Vision for Planning

The bold Derek Mackay
The bold Derek Mackay

You know, last week when Planning Minister Derek Mackay launched the Scottish Government's 'vision for planning' he set out an agenda that I can identify with. Apart from a passing reference to plaice-making which will please the dreary cliché-ridden mouthpieces of RTPI Scotland, everything is big, upfront and business-like. Many traditional planners will feel uncomfortable with the tone and content of the vision and for some, Derek Mackay has literally stepped up to the plate and opened a can of worms. For me it was the icing on the cake and the cherry on the doughnut that will melt in my mouth for years to come.

I read about this in more detail over my porridge on Sunday morning. It has been hailed as a watershed moment - a chance to unblock the pipelines of enterprise and deliver a geyser of entrepreneurial activity in which clever people with money get a fair chance to defeat the restrictive planning system. Some say it is just another pipe dream but business is already flushed with success after a series of historic victories, some of which I have documented here on my lovely wee blog.

A key part of this tsunami of new planning measures is the introduction of a presumption in favour of development. Of course this is nothing new for the good people of Aberdeen who have seen their city become a hot tub of property development - literally a Jacuzzi of wealth and employment which has delivered a cold shower for those interfering busybodies dressed in shorts and sandals who try to stop things happening. There couldn't be a clearer sign that business and enterprise is more important than quiche-eating communities and the loathsome serpents that represent them. The days of the badly-dressed snake-in-the-grass community activist are over.

Infrastructure is key - we are talking about carbon capture, thermal generation, pumped hydroelectric storage, high-speed rail and airport enhancement. It's a long way from squabbling over a new Subway outlet or protesting over some old city hall that is an impediment to development. All that is from the past. The Bold Derek has set out a Big Vision and it is just fine with me.

House building is another area where change is inevitable. I have documented many circumstances in which local planning authorities have ignored my advice and tried to refuse developments which have subsequently been approved on appeal. In other cases I have drawn attention to land that is ripe for development but where nothing is happening.

You know, I personally can't take on the responsibility of ensuring that Councils meet the housing targets so a presumption in favour of development is a positive move. A Right to Build would be even better! Too much time is spent by Council planners reading the Daily Record in the toilet or going out for bacon rolls every morning at 10 o'clock. The effect on the economy is staggering - in 2013, fewer than 15,000 new houses were built in Scotland - that's 20,000 less than the Scottish Government target. This is all down to planners sitting about doing nothing instead of approving every application they receive.

I'll be back in a wee while with some exciting new updates on planning and property development in Scotland. Cheeriebye for now.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Novar Drive will explode with enterprise

The site of the great proposal - just behind the wee red car

You know, when a friend of mine drew my attention to a wonderful and clever proposal for a new supermarket and offices at Novar Drive in the slums of Glasgow's West End I was thrilled to bits. At the time, I happened to be in Glasgow on important Auchterness business so took the bus out to the area to get first-hand knowledge.

As we all know, Glasgow's West End is a tenement area filled with Multiple Occupancies, rats and overflowing litter bins yet it is one of the chosen areas for professional types as well as footballers and their wives. Strange, but it's quite different from some of the peripheral housing estates like Broomhill and Jordanhill where most of the schemies live and cause trouble every night.
The depressing tenemental environment of Hyndland Road
- and the fat ladies cafe

I stopped off for a nice wee cup of tea and a biscuit at one of the many cafes in the area. I could hardly get in the door – the place was filled with big women with huge prams yapping away to each other, gossiping and talking about fridge magnets or whatever trivial things came into their empty heads.  I saw many stylish men in tight trousers, bunnets and beards strolling along Hyndland Road on their way to the gym or to their therapists. Some of the women also had beards and most were overweight. Thin men with big fat women - that seems to be the Glasgow look. Not so different from the Broons all those years ago!
The Broons - a typical Glasgow family - a wee man and a big woman
Anyway I digress. Now like many other areas, the West End has been getting rid of its depressing legacy of mixed use - garages, studios, offices, second hand bookshops and workshops are all being swept away and replaced with residential development. It's called mono-use and is the latest thing - remember that you heard about it first from Auchterness! From an expert planner's viewpoint, all these new people moving into the area need somewhere to shop. Enter the G1 Group and their dynamic partners Root & Branch. These folk had the clever idea of building a new supermarket on the site of some derelict properties just off Hyndland Road. It's a braw wee proposal - submitted in colour too! I don't know who the architects were for this building but they have done a great job in the circumstances - it even has a nice wee pitched roof!

The excellent Novar Drive Supermarket proposal
The excellent Novar Drive Supermarket proposal
Predictably, a few local residents are up in arms about this - around 500 objections to the planning application were received by the Council. Why? I honestly can't understand why people would object to this. They complain about congestion but don't think that their own cars are causing congestion all along Novar Drive. They will literally have a pint of milk on their door steps but they still complain. This proposal will be a shot in the arm for many local shops, especially those just next to the new supermarket on Hyndland Road - they will get an amazing uplift in business. The area could become a dynamic hub of enterprise once the Council sweep away the interfering nosey-parkerism of a few misguided residents. I am sure most of the objectors simply signed a standard letter that some expert had prepared. The Council should get wise to this sort of thing and throw out objections that are identical except in name and address. In fact there should be new legislation!

As I stood in awe on the corner of Novar Drive and Hyndland Road a wee jakie approached me with a cardboard cup with some coins in it. "Scuse me Grandad, have yous got a pound for the bus hame?" A gave him some money - the poor soul. It seemed obvious to me that the young lad could easily have got a job in the new supermarket and that would solve at least some of his problems. But interfering nosey parkers always think they know best and of course they are usually wrong. They are heartless, loud, mean-spirited and usually badly dressed in my experience.

I heartily support this application and offer my congratulations to everyone who was involved in putting it together. I'm sure it will be approved by Glasgow City Council and everyone will be happy. It gets a gold star in my wee black book.

Cheeriebye from Auchterness – enjoy the rest of the week!