Sunday, 28 October 2007

Another great idea for town planners

planners enjoying a nice bit of CPD
I'm away for the weekend for a bit of CPD - Continuous Professional Development. It's a sort of holiday break that we planners are forced to take every few weeks so that we don't get over-tired with the strain of work.

A friend of mine who works for a Council in England had to do two days CPD in Newcastle. He had saved up for a while and really pissed it all up the wall when he got there. I'm not condoning that sort of behaviour but it really sounded like a great couple of days. He still managed to get the certificate from the people who were running the sessions - after all they don't really care if people turn up or not as long as they get the big bucks from employers. It's a big earner for these training companies and a holiday for us planners - great. So well done - whoever thought this one up is a genius.

Friday, 26 October 2007

I want to be a consultant

You know, one of the many problems with this job is the fact that I don't get any respect from people. I am talented, interesting and committed to my work and despite the departure of my wife some years ago to set up house with a much younger man, I can still hold my head high.

I was out for a walk last night - just down to the ferry when a young man rushed past me on his bicycle shouting, "Dave Thomson is a wanker - all planners are wankers!" It was just Hamish from the office but it made me think. What if I had been driving a Porsche or a Mercedes like all consultants have? Somebody told me that they leave their good cars a few miles away and get taxis or the bus into Auchterness so that people won't think they are earning too much money.

We had a guy up from one of the big consultancies last week. You know, I'm sure he wanted to employ me although he probably felt I was looking for a job with him. Nobody would call him a wanker - that's for sure. I'm sure he was wearing a Marks and Spencer suit - really classy. I think that's my future and I feel warm and happy when I think about how people will start to respect me as a top town planner.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Happy and proud to be a town planner

A very exciting thing happened today. At our monthly community workshop, the local children produced some new ideas for the future of the town. The kids used a bit of old concrete wall down at the ferry terminal to sketch out their ideas. It wasn't long before this was vandalised of course and you can see the result above. Actually I think one of the kids did this when we weren't looking but I'm not sure.

Anyway you can see a lot of great things here - a big red telephone kiosk that tapers towards it's base - great idea! Two multistorey blocks of flats just like Le Corbusier used to do - fantastic! The church is something that nobody around here has thought about - but we will see! You know, with all the worries about the green belt, mobile phones, religion and cycling it's just so appropriate that these kids have dealt with these issues - brought them out into the open for discussion. We couldn't have done much better!

I'm proud to be a town plannner today and happy to serve this vibrant new community.

Monday, 22 October 2007

One of my proudest moments

I have no idea how many of you know this (well news travels fast in the outback - ha ha only joking) but I was interviewed by Building in Scotland magazine the other day. For those of you from other lands, Building in Scotland is a lovely wee magazine that comes out every now and again. It always has a really nice cover and is printed on shiny paper. Very posh!

I was featured in the "Interview with..." section. Here is a little preview of some of the questions and answers:

David Thompson is Secretary of one of the UK's leading regeneration companies and is responsible for the planning and construction of Auchterness. He spoke to Emma Smith about his career achievements.

BiS: Tell me about you - your background, qualifications and why you went into this job?
DT: Well, I was brought up in a lovely wee house in Lenzie with two brothers and a dog. They always picked on me and one day they even tied me to the school railings - ha ha. I am a qualified town planner and I got my degree at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee. It was there that I realised I was on a planning course instead of the fabric design course I thought I had enrolled in. I joined Auchterness by accident too - I was on a CPD trip here and never left.
BiS: What's been the proudest moment - personal and professional?
DT: My first date with a girl was quite important to me personally as most of my school pals thought I was one of them - if you know what I mean. Professionally I think this interview is the pinnacle of my career. It's great to be recognised as a significant mover and shaker - I can't wait to see it in print.
BiS: Who would be your ideal dinner guests?
DT: Well first of all my wife who actually left me some years ago. Then I think Richard Branson who is a total rocker by the way, wee Heather from the village who helps out around the office, Betty one of the Arriva bus drivers. I would like to invite Jennifer Aniston too. I think she and my wife would get on really well.

So it sounds pretty interesting I think. My career is going to rocket after this and I may be head-hunted by other organisations. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile I'm going to sign off with one of these disgraceful and disrespectful pieces of vandalism - this time on our own building. We have announced a reward for information leading to the conviction of this person.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

An apology - I was drunk

I'm absolutely horrified to read my last post and I feel that I must prostrate myself before you all. I think the pressure to make a success of this job just became too much and losing the Draft Annual Report was the last straw. A lot of people think town planners don't take their jobs seriously and spend large proportions of their days in the toilet reading the Daily Record or going on shopping trips to nearby towns and claiming the car mileage back. Well that doesn't happen here - in any case, the office only gets the Sun. There is a prevailing atmosphere of disrespect for what we do with our partners in the development industry - just look at this latest outrage below.

Do these people not realise that our intentions are fair and honourable? This is the site adjacent to the successful public toilet pump priming development that was opened during the summer - we had to fence it off to make it look less like a picturesque field with sheep grazing in it.

Anyway look, I'm really sorry about the last post - I would delete it if I knew how to. Apologies to all the people I might have offended - the English, arty folk, photographers, pigs and any other person or thing that was disappointed by my drunken ramble.

Misunderstandings and problems

You know I've just lost the entire Draft Annual Report. I don't know what happened - it just disappeared. I've been working all day on this and it has just gone. Perhaps we need to reformat the hard drive or at least reinstall Word - I'll get Heather on to that when she's finished feeding her donkey. I was just typing 'building value' and the whole thing just crashed. You know there was a guy in here the other day looking at the server and he just laughed. I mean why can't we just get this sorted out?

While I'm here, some arty photographer guy gave me this the other day - see above. He had some idea that Auchterness could look a bit like this after we were finished. What a load of rubbish - there are already enough pigs in the streets here and I'm not talking about the four-legged kind. Our new town will not be a pigsty! My God! Our heroes would turn in their graves - Patrick Geddes, Ebenezer Howard, Le Corbusier, Josef Stalin, George Wimpey deserve better than this slap in the face!

I was speaking to the Chief Planner the other day and he said it might be easier just to close and move to Glasgow. Well that is a point of view but as I was saying to a government minister the other day, we can't just walk away. This isn't the first time this has happened and often when you type something in Word and you get to the second line, the machine just hangs. We're supposed to be a professional office and Doug Harper of course is a strong player now that the Chief Planner has sided with him. But the quality isn't there at the moment. Do you know that we only have one width of masking tape here? In Glasgow I've heard that you can get two widths and in London maybe three or four. I was out for a drink with the Laird's daughter last night and I told her about the new settlement proposal in more detail and how it is an ideal platform for a developer led consortium that actually taps into the value gradient inherent in the Scottish housing market. Why aren't we doing that?

What's happening with other new settlements? Why doesn't someone tell me? I asked Heather to find out more about who rang the door bell the other morning. You know other offices have a proper doorbell that people can use and people do use it - much more than up here where they just wander in with their muddy feet. I've asked Heather to send a Powerpoint presentation to the Scottish Government explaining things. You know we keep coming across the same problems everywhere I go. The trouble is that people just don't listen to me. We have the plumbers in the office at the moment - we need electricians. I asked Heather to make sure that she let them in before she left but - well I don't know what happened - I was struggling to find this file on the computer but Groupwise told me that it wasn't configured for that. I'm really struggling with Groupwise at the moment. You see the Chief Planner doesn't understand what the problem is and we need to refocus on some of the issues here and he is just manipulating things. I had lunch the other day with Alex Salmond. Did you know that he is now First Minister? I just found out about that the other day but apparently it happened in May. Why doesn't anyone tell me these things - because if I had known, I would have been able to help.

Anyway where is that bottle?

Bad behaviour but good plans

It's a few months since my first post back in May and I must admit I keep forgetting how to do this. I'm happy to say that we were very lucky to employ a very attractive young lady called Heather who is good with computers. She's also quite spunky and helps me out with a number of other things too.

Anyway I have to report more bad behaviour in the Single Enterprise Area. One of the sailors off one of the Russian trawlers had given Heather's brother a poster of an American Pop Star and he put this up temporarily in the window of the church hall. The minister was pleased and said it gave the impression that we actually lived in the 21st Century and knew what was going on. We were horrified to find that it had been defaced only a few days later. The local police constable is trying to find out who did this terrible thing. You can see below how bad it is.

We have just finished sketching out new plans for the area between the old harbour and the public toilets. We have obtained the services of a well known volume housebuilder who has agreed to build 60 new homes if we provide a new road connection between Auchterness and the main road. This is great news. The housebuilders will do this at no cost to us - we just have to give them the land! Amazing! We will be able to tell of great progress in our Annual Report this year. I cycled up the road this afternoon to get the planning application forms and I might be able to fill these in tonight after I have my tea and just before River City comes on. We can get them approved tomorrow.

It's a great time to work in town planning. The intellectual input, the great care and thought that goes into every proposal and the generous nature of everyone who works in the development industry make me feel proud to be a member of the Institute.