Monday, 27 December 2010
Well I told you so! This morning, the papers and the internet are full of the fantastic, life-affirming news that Aberdeenshire has been named as the place in Scotland which offers the best quality of life for the second year running. Aberdeenshire was said to rate highly as residents tend to be fit and well, with 93% reporting good health; the employment rate and pay is high; and the weather is better than in other areas.
Now I’m not surprised at all by this great news. I’ve been banging on for ages about the revolution taking place in the north east of Scotland as a result of the work of Dr Donald Trump, Sir Ian Woods, Aberdeen Football Club and Halfords as well as other giants of the retail park like Lidl, Argos and Homebase. It's the future of Scotland in miniature and everywhere else had better catch up quickly! It’s a part of Scotland that only sees green lights for an amazing new range of developments marching over the green belt, just like a Martian Invasion - only better!
So the massed forces of the media and the entire population of the north east of Scotland will be delighted to hear that the Auchterness Award for The Greatest Place Ever in 2010 goes to Aberdeenshire.
But what of the other areas that were supposedly in contention? Shetland and Orkney feature because according to the report, “These areas score well on high employment rates, low population densities and burglary rates, small class sizes and good secondary school exam results.” Well the obvious response to low burglary rates is that in these other areas there is nothing worth stealing - an old pair of Wellington boots or the bit of rusty chain that keeps the collie dog from trying to swim to the mainland. And small class sizes? You would be pushed to have large class sizes in these places because hardly anyone lives there!
Elsewhere it seems that east is important - East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian and East Renfrewshire so if you want to live in a good area, perhaps make sure it has East in its name.
But back to Aberdeenshire and some final points. The picture at the top of this post, courtesy of PA and the BBC, shows a winter landscape with wind farms in the background near Inverurie - scene of one of my terrific posts last year. Now wind farms have been a theme of mine in a couple of recent posts - they represent enterprise and a new modern Scottish landscape. Climate is also important - the north east gets a lot of snow and they tend to have proper winters which is good for wee beasties hibernating properly (I read recently). So if you are a nature lover in Aberdeenshire, while some of your favourite frogs will be sleeping safely in their burrows over the winter, don’t be surprised if others have to face the Grim Reaper - it’s only natural.
Of course it’s the same for towns and villages - some will, and should perish as their life drains away to more modern locations which are better positioned and more prosperous. And this is certainly happening to some of the welfare towns and villages in Scotland as we speak. But that’s all for now - well done Aberdeenshire!
Friday, 24 December 2010
I will miss Bell and Scott's daily Sector Knowledge newsletter (the last one till the 5th of January was yesterday) and I urge each and every one of you to sign up for it now. It's the clearest possible view into the future of Scotland, transformed into a dynamic new country on the back of market led development without restraint.
Anyway, I hope you like my wee Christmas Tree - I put it up last night and I'm very proud of it. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, including all those who have been cruel and insulting to me over the past year. Please keep dropping in to Auchterness where you're always welcome. I'll put the kettle on and we'll have a wee blether.
With every best Christmas wish - yours in planning.
Thursday, 23 December 2010
You know, it was gratifying to read of the impending battle between the middle class snobs of Newton Mearns south of Glasgow and Lifetime Recycling Village Ltd, a company which aims to process some 1.5 million tonnes of commercial and industrial rubbish at a former farm just off the M77 south of the dreamy slum suburb. The company claims that the rubbish dump will have the capacity to generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.
This is fantastic news and yet another example of how Scotland is moving forward towards increasing self sufficiency in energy production. But it's also a typical class battle in which a small section of nimbyish middle class folk try to deny the rest of Scotland the opportunity to recycle waste and produce power from it. Apart from those living in a huge council estate there which is at the hub of the community, it won't have dawned on the other good folk of Newton Mearns, who heat their SUVs in the garage at night and who have special fridges for their white wine, that their actions are undermining the whole concept of a Smart Sustainable and Successful Scotland - it makes me sick. . They are also blind and deaf to the wildlife opportunities of the tip and the potential for new habitat creation which can attract a range of new environments for seagulls and a host of cuddly small animals which make their homes in the rubbish.
I wonder if it has occurred to the owners of the Lifetime Recycling Village (a very good combination of three key buzzwords by the way) that these good folk can easily be bought off. You only need to read my article on the monetisation of planning to realise that this is ideal territory to hand out Waitrose vouchers, memberships of exclusive wine clubs, nail bars and other desirable personal services. Opposition to the proposal could collapse overnight because all these folk care about is money - especially property values.
You see, the other side of a Smart Successful and Sustainable Scotland is a Self-interested, Short-sighted and Selfish Scotland. Let battle commence!
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
As Christmas approaches and the office runs down for the year, I'm usually left to mind the shop while others take a sickie to do some last minute shopping. At lunchtime today, I received my personal email from Bell and Scott giving me the run down on some of the best property development proposals around. I clicked on the top link entitled 'Creation of a community' and almost choked on my sandwich - here we have an absolutely stunning new proposal which is important in all sorts of ways and is truly a thing of great beauty.
You know, many people write to me and ask, "Dave, how did you become such an expert on town planning? How can you tell when something is important? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?" Of course it takes years of experience working at the coalface of cutting-edge development but you also need to have a nose for a good project. It's like good wine in a way - I discovered Blue Nun many years ago and because it was such a sound choice, I haven't felt the need to change my taste. So when I saw this proposal for a place called Newton, close to Rutherglen and Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire I saw straight away that it was a winner.
Okay, let's have a detailed look at this from my expert planner's perspective. First of all Taylor Wimpey and Ashfield Land say they are delighted that South Lanarkshire Council have unanimously granted planning permission for this mixed-use regeneration scheme at Two74 Cambuslang Road in Glasgow. I'll bet they're delighted - it's the ultimate Christmas present! The development will be anchored by a major food store and will also offer restaurants, a nine storey 170 room hotel, 9 screen cinema, 50,000 sq ft sport retail, 55,000 sq ft of employment with over 800 car spaces. The value of the scheme is £50 million for a site covering 20 acres. Incredible! Note the use of certain important words here - 'mixed-use regeneration' and 'anchored' for example. These guys are serious.
Now of course, this is basically a new town centre that will see off the existing centres of Cambuslang and Rutherglen in one fell swoop. That is exactly why South Lanarkshire Council approved it - so that they don't need to bother propping up the existing knackered centres with facelift schemes, public art or other cynical urbanistic placebos. It's actually quite common for planners to do this these days though they won't admit it openly.
So once again, the market has triumphed - the old is erased from the earth and the brand new, profit-creating development is welcomed in - in fact planning permission was just a formality as usual these days. No one was going to stop this magnificent beast from proceeding!
But there's more - the scheme will be known as Two74 and lies at Junction 2 of the M74, which is currently being extended to link Glasgow to Europe, and of course is in close proximity to the site of the Commonwealth Games taking place in 2014 when our cousins from many foreign parts will come to entertain us with their dancing and strange customs.
I have given this development a gold star and a big tick with 9 out of 10 in my little notebook. My hearty congratulations to everyone involved.
Sunday, 19 December 2010
You know, I was speaking to one of my friends in industry this week who told me that green shoots of recovery are beginning to show in his garden. I can tell you, it was so refreshing to hear people talking again about the way in which the market provides for the country, how big is good, how profit-making and profit-taking is a natural human instinct, yes - just like greed, and of the will of enterprise to fight communities who think it is their business to block development of any kind. Yes, I was literally quivering with excitement as you can imagine - so much so that I got out my personal copy of the Project Scotland Year Planner Wall Chart and wrote 'REMEMBER TO FIGHT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY' at the start of each week of 2011 to remind me of what was worthwhile and good.
Here we have a typical unemployed community activist. Now don't get me wrong. I don't dislike the locals around here but I do hate all their talk about small things - a nice wee meeting room, a wee allotment, a wee bit of social enterprise, a wee hub with wifi - you know what I mean. Then there's all the green talk about cosying up to frogs and buttercups, creating habitats everywhere, damming streams and letting beavers run riot with bears and wolves across the countryside - a hazard to road users. It doesn't stop there of course - before you know it, top planners like me will have to get permission from the community to go to the toilet. Intolerable!
Well things are going to be different for the great unwashed in 2011 - believe me. First of all, 50% of them won't have a job as they will have been made redundant by the Council. Wee Fat Alex Salmond will probably repatriate the English so there won't be so many trouble makers around. But most important, developers will be able to buy off local Councils and community groups with offers of cash and inducements, including free pie suppers from the local chip shop. Some say that this marks a radical change in the way that the development industry operates - but does it really?
Planning has always been corrupt - developers have always bunged councillors or officials a holiday, a wee trip or sexual favours for planning permission. That's what makes the world go round. Soon all this will be out in the open. It's been called the monetisation of planning. People get in the way - they get paid to clear off. A Council gets a bag of money for allowing development - a wee trip to MIPIM included. A local community get sunbeds and au pairs to shut up and smile as more fields are ploughed up for volume builder housing. It's great!
It's a fantastically brilliant idea that comes from the Tories down south - aren't they just great at oiling the wheels of industry? Big is good. Greed is good. Small is ugly and green is uglier. The sooner these ideas take root in Scotland the better!
Thursday, 16 December 2010
You know, an article in the Press and Journal last week has put me in a brown study for the past few days - is it inaccurate or mischievous? One thing I do know is that it is certainly untrue and probably a misunderstanding. The Great Dr Donald Trump is reported to have clashed with rival developers over plans to build a windfarm off the stretch of north-east coastline where he is creating his magnificent £750 million golf resort. Dr Donald is quoted as saying, “These turbines, if ever built, will in one fell swoop destroy Scotland’s magnificent natural heritage. They are noisy, unsightly and we will oppose the siting of this windfarm vehemently. Every component of our project is based upon sea views and we cannot allow the construction of what is tantamount to 11 65-storey structures off our beautiful coastline.”
This must be rubbish - it is a fabrication invented by the press to smear my hero at a time when he is being hounded by the media because of his successful dispute with some old coffin-dodger. In detail, a pensioner threatened with eviction and a legal bill of up to £50,000 after she tried to block Donald Trump’s north-east golf course has lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights. I haven't reported on this as it is so unimportant and unworthy of your interest. But the press have seized on this of course despite Dr Donald's great love for old people and his kindness and generosity to the people of the north east of Scotland who will benefit in a thousand ways from his new golf course and associated developments. In other words, they have forgotten about the economic argument and foregrounded the issue of the coffin-dodger. Disgraceful!
Now let me tell you why there is no dispute between Trump and the wind farm developers. As I explained in a recent post, wind farms are a big asset in the landscape and represent the modern face of the country and its economy. In addition, there's a pile of money to be made from wind farms - they are part of the renewable energy economy, which incidentally also keeps a lot of my planning colleagues in their Mercs and BMWs.
Donald knows these things as he is not stupid. What he is actually saying is, "These turbines, when they are built, will in one fell swoop immensely improve Scotland’s magnificent natural heritage. They are quiet, beautiful and we will support the siting of this wind farm vehemently. Every component of our project is based upon sea views and to actually see something beautiful instead of the dreary North Sea will be an enormous boost to our project. They are just like eleven magnificent 65-storey structures off our beautiful coastline.”
So you see, you can't believe everything you read, even in the Press and Journal.
Monday, 13 December 2010
You know, I don't often write about public transport as I prefer my car but I'm making an exception today because of the great news that was quietly announced over the weekend for junkies and alkies across Central Scotland. Yes, the Airdrie to Bathgate railway link has been completed, allowing vagrants and jakies from the welfare villages of Caldercruix, Armadale and Blackridge to visit Glasgow and Edinburgh. But if their ambitions are not quite of a metropolitan leaning, they can visit Airdrie, Coatbridge or Bathgate instead for their methadone and Super-Lager.
It cost £300m to re-establish this passenger service between North Lanarkshire and West Lothian enabling the plebs to visit the big cities of Scotland for the first time in 54 years. The new 15-mile track allows trains to run all the way from the West of Scotland through Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh, via Airdrie and Bathgate. That's a lot of money to undo the good deeds of Dr Beeching isn't it? I mean if there were any respectable people living in these forgotten airts, they would surely have a Mercedes, a BMW or a big fancy Jaguar like some of the property surveyors I know, so they would never use the train. The idea that the creative classes of Blackridge and Armadale can be literally fast-tracked to the Edinburgh Festival seems ridiculous to me and is a complete waste of public money.
Moreover, some of the wonderful examples of public art along the route, which had become a cycleway for nature lovers and perverts, have been destroyed. It's a badly thought out scheme in many other ways - for example the route runs through the proposed Protestant Village known as Edinburgh's Garden District designed by Rangers FC owner Sir David Murray but there is apparently to be no station which would enable residents to get to Ibrox or Tynecastle more easily. Little things like that have been ignored in the planning of this linear white elephant.
Wee Fat Alex Salmond seems to be playing with his electric train set instead of pump priming the economy by supporting more retail developments - this is disgraceful at a time of national crisis and clearly, this £300M could have been better spent.
Saturday, 11 December 2010
You know, it's always a great honour to be able to point young people in the right direction. It's a source of great sadness that I'm perhaps failing with my own son who is turning out to be a bully and a hooligan but there are special circumstances there relating to my beautiful wife and her young lover which I won't go into here.
Anyway, last week I gave the first of my Christmas talks to schoolkids and boy were they enraptured! Fantastic! Clearly they were filled with respect for me as an able and important person doing a much more difficult job than their teachers - or probably their parents too. I offered them a glimpse into the future and used it as an opportunity to explain in layman's terms, some of the business philosophy behind the Auchterness project. Here's a brief extract:
Good Morning trainee adults - how are you today? At Auchterness, we are all about our people and our values, constantly refocusing and concentrating on our cause. To be good at planning, you have to think outside of the box 24/7 and keep discussion on a high level. We must shift paradigms and walk the walk but once the final issues are resolved, we run a final meta go-no-go decision matrix, as maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. We touch base with our customers every day and push the envelope with a win-win philosophy but of course, it's time to backstop things if we ever feel we have lost control of what we are doing. Trying to get corporate approval is like herding cats of course.
We contribute positively to our community and environment although sometimes we have to guesstimate the deadline for this or that project. We take ownership of problems and don't pass the buck. We deal with great ideas during meetings or off-line. Embracing diversity as an essential component of the way we do business. We get together and really drill down on this as the need to alleviate our human capital is paramount. You are definitely not cool if your company is not running at internet speed.
We establish strategic partnerships with another entities by going back to our roots to connect the dots and focus on the low-hanging fruit. We are proactive - we run the skills matrix yes, but if we do not upskill ourselves, we may become unemployable. So breaking out of the victim mindset and engaging with business in a more positive and effective way is the way to go. We don't look at this as a problem but as an opportunity. We refocus and concentrate on our core business while realising that our competitive advantage is great customer service. We have the computing power and we have the intellectual infrastructure. We constantly operationalise our strategy starting with the historical data and after that, we can double-click on the proformas, double-checking that the customer is still in a good mood. Our core purpose is to provide an uplifting experience that enriches people's daily lives. Let's take a short bio-break before moving on to action plan the options.
Great isn't it? There was a tremendous round of applause when I finished and I felt uplifted, valued and just brilliant. I hope these kids have a really good Christmas when it comes.
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
You know, a lot of local authority planners get their knickers in a twist about wind farms - trying to block them in order to justify their pathetic existences. Well, a lot of planners in the private sector make a lot of money out of wind farms and I could name one who dines out on his retainer every week. Also a lot of people make money out of having wind farms on their land. So there we are - three compelling arguments for wind farms and I've barely started!
Okay so let's look at one of the main issues here - impact on the landscape. Now in Scotland we are a modern nation - it's just over ten years since we got our own parliament. A modern nation needs a modern landscape - it's logical really - and what could be more modern than a hillside covered in shiny new windmills! You just need to look at the nice wee photie above to realise how much the original dreary landscape has been improved with these glistening whirling dervishes. Add to that the simple fact that money is being made with every revolution of those fine blades and you can see that any argument is futile.
It's another example of planners holding the wrong end of the stick, trying to refuse perfectly good proposals, forcing public enquiries and generally being negative in the face of the development industry. I'll bet not one of them has stood on a wind farm in gale force winds and heard the deafening roar, the terrified stampede of sheep or the sound of seagulls being whacked by the huge blades. My goodness you almost feel that the whole hillside is taking off - it's so exciting. But this is the sort of thing that planners, aided and abetted by conservationists, naturalists - and I'm sure nudists and other perverts - are trying to stop. It's a disgrace!
So next time you see a big story in the papers about the merits of this or that wind farm proposal, just think that behind it, there is a horrible little specky planner in a tweed jacket trying to stir up trouble and stop technology advancing across our new nation's landscape. Praise the windmills and turbines of the future! Down with Council planners!
Sunday, 5 December 2010
You know, when I received my personal copy of Planning on Friday I was underwhelmed to say the least. At £2.70 a copy it is grossly overpriced considering that there is usually nothing of interest in it so it's just as well I get it for nothing as a fully qualified planner. But this week they have published the results of their annual Planning Consultancy Survey - fascinating reading but with a big sting in the tail.
This year, Barton Willmore won top spot again in the leading employers category with a fee income of £18.1M for 2009-10. That makes them the Tesco of planning consultants I suppose. They've never worked for me but are due some respect I suppose. One of my all time favourites only managed to come in at =13th - the mighty Halcrow Group - with a fee income of £21M for 2009-10 - and to continue the supermarket and retail analogy, they are perhaps the Morrisons of the planning consultancy world. Nevertheless, that's £21,000,000 well spent on the thickest reports that you can put through a plastic ring binder these days so a very hearty congratulations to the clients who coughed up for this.
As I scanned down the list of top dogs, I became increasingly concerned about the absence of my favourite all-time planners - Keppie Design! Eventually I found them at =63rd with an undisclosed fee income. I couldn't believe it! I was downcast for most of Friday - Keppie Design appear to be the Lidl or the Iceland of the planning consultancy world and that hurts, I can tell you. At sixty-third equal, they have a long way to go and I will be writing to them to offer my help and full support in their climb to the top.
I got the boy yesterday and today. We've all had a lot of snow in the past few days so it was inevitable that he would use me as target practice for an almost constant bombardment of snowballs and the butt of practical jokes for the entire evening on Saturday. Normally I would join in the fun but the news about Keppies has cast a dark blanket of depression over me. I will shake this off though and put on my thinking cap to bring you a new item from the Planner's Bumper Fun Book in the next few days. So cheerio for now and stay warm.
Sunday, 28 November 2010
You know, I was thrilled to read recently that Aberdeen City Council have decided to set up a special company to develop Council owned assets and regenerate Aberdeen. It's called One Aberdeen - original name isn't it? Yes, but only if you ignore One North East and One NG - that's One Newcastle Gateshead for you ignorant types out there. It's a unique idea borrowed from other Councils in Scotland like Glasgow and Edinburgh.
This is fabulous news - One Aberdeen will fast-track supposed Council assets like libraries and cemeteries straight into the willing hands of private developers. It's a ploy that I suspect was suggested to the Council by Donald Trump or Sir Ian Woods. The One Aberdeen city development company will take Council assets which could be making money for the city, but are not - places like Union Terrace Gardens or the slums of Torry - and give them to private developers.
Apparently in the past, unused assets have been sold on to third parties, but under the new scheme they will be transferred to One Aberdeen for development and used to generate cash for the city, ensuring the people of Aberdeen, rather than a private body, benefit from the asset. Well that's what the press release says but in fact it's equivalent to flogging off the entire property portfolio - this will include the Beach, Union Street, all the sponsored roundabouts and the Duthie Park which will be redeveloped along with Hazlehead Park, the golf course there being given to Donald Trump.
One of the prime aims of the new company will be to drive and promote the regeneration and economic development of the city as a whole. This is exactly the right approach and will hopefully see acres of unused land flattened and used for housing, ring-roads and other assets. It is a sign that the dynamic duo - Dr Donald and Sir Ian - are beginning to have their way with the city. A thousand years of untold wealth and riches will inevitably follow!
Friday, 26 November 2010
You know, I'm often asked, "What do you actually do?" A very good question. Not that I'm in any doubt but it might be difficult for lesser beings to understand! So I thought I would write an occasional series of posts on some of the hot topics in the expert world of the fully qualified town planner. Here's Part 1 - the hotel.
Ok let's go! Now hotels are one of the most desirable items in the planners's bumper fun book. Think Monopoly - think Park Lane - okay? Let's talk Scotland - it comes down to two classic chains. Travelodge and Premier Inns. Fantastic! They are all over the place and their incestuous battle for supremacy is played out from Elgin to West Edinburgh. Like two Premier Division Football sides, these two giants of business provision knock each other around like an old couple but they are deadly serious.
Just look at my picture above of the Premier Inn at Dundee. Forget about the daft V&A proposals - this is the real thing. Imagine staying overnight at this succulent supplier of late night treats. Imagine standing naked at your window with your Mars Bar in the dead of night overlooking the silvery Tay with nothing between you and the river but a bit of double glazing, a luscious lawn and an asphalt path - fabulous! You have your own electric kettle for the night (maybe) and some tea-bags. But there's a machine in the hall to dispense soft drinks - it's an incredibly sophisticated offer!
So what's the link to planning and regeneration? Well it's obvious. Like public art which I've referred to before, a Travelodge or a Premier Inn is a sign that planners have been at work, 'enabling' as we say, oiling the wheels of business and ensuring that everything turns out well. A nice asphalt car park with white markings is a classic touch. The nice wee plants around the car park should be spikey so that crisp packets can get stuck on them - makes it easier for the Council layabouts to pick them up once or twice a year - and dense undergrowth is good for hiding beer cans. That's three boxes ticked and I've hardly started!
You often find that these hotels are build close to other important facilities like business parks, ten-pin bowling alleys, edge-of-town cinemas, supermarkets and upmarket restaurants like Frankie and Bennys. That's what we expert planners call a 'cluster of excellence' - good isn't it?
Of course there is a dark side to this success story. Sometimes these facilities are used by ladies of the night (although that might not be the case in Elgin - well I wouldn't advise anyone to try it). It's a sure sign that these developments are successful when uses that were once associated with town centres move to edge-of-town sites. It's another kick in the pants for the conservation lobby and others who oppose modern development. You know, many of my friends in Scottish Enterprise aspire to provide a Travelodge - they think it would be the pinnacle of a successful career - the ultimate bit of enabling. I agree!
So in summary, hotel developments like these are a clear sign of a successful area and a beacon of light, demonstrating the value of planning today.
Monday, 22 November 2010
You know, I was over the moon today when I spotted the news on the Urban Realm website that Keppie Design have been commissioned to design Orkney Islands Council’s £50m Schools Investment Programme. By the way, Urban Realm is a favourite of mine for gossip and tittle-tattle around the development scene in Scotland and is especially known for its uncritical reporting. This is fantastic news and another kick in the teeth for some of Scotland's so-called boutique architecture firms as well as a big vote of confidence for this great company, fresh from its success at the Highland Housing Expo where they won my category of best house ever, in the world.
So let's have a look at what is being proposed here. The contract will see Keppie working with Morrison Construction - the building arm of the well known supermarket chain - to deliver a grammar school, theatre and halls of residence in Kirkwall, a primary school in Stromness, a leisure hall and squash courts at the Pickaquoy Centre and all weather sports pitches in Stromness and Kirkwall. It will be just as if the army had arrived there again to build camps, defences and other facilities at the start of World War II - except it will be different.
This is great news for Orkney which is struggling to find a contemporary identity in the 21st century. Black houses, mud huts and thatched roofed slums will be swept aside to create a new modern look for the islands. Brightly coloured cladding, plate glass, carpet tiles and other mod-cons will completely jerk the islanders out of their Victorian outfits and habits. It's a win-win situation for the Council and will herald a New Enlightenment for the islands in which people can read and write again. "Integrating the architecture with interior and landscape design Keppie will prioritise longevity and robustness given the vagaries of the Orkney climate whilst harnessing abundant natural energy", said Peter Moran, Director of Education at Keppie.
Wonderful and well spoken that man! I can tell you now, I wish I had been educated in a Keppies School - I might have turned out better! I congratulate the Council on their foresight in appointing such a great, stylish and appropriate firm of architects to undertake this important work and offer some hope for the future in this miserable part of Scotland.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
So that's another weekend over and the boy has been given back to my beautiful wife and her young lover - I'll get him again on the 4th of December. It's a pleasant punctuation in my hectic life as one of the top planners in Scotland. The nice wee photie above is one for the family album - well I don't have much of a family or an album but I'll share it with you anyway. It was taken by the boy on Saturday as we sat in Burger King just next to the Vue Cinema at the ever gorgeous Inverness Shopping Park.
I didn't have time to write an in-depth assessment of the Shopping Park but I knew I was somewhere special. The way in which the cold prevailing winds drive people into the shops is a very clever touch. You will get an in-depth perspective from your favourite expert planner at a later date.
I was very tired after the drive and slept through most of the film - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - which was not my cup of tea. While I was asleep, the boy stuck a big piece of chewing gum on my head and I didn't even notice to till we got back to the car. Oh how he laughed. There's a streak of badness in him which I think is being encouraged by his unfortunate home environment. I'm not sure what to do about this and I worry sometimes that he will end up in care or become a social misfit, a hooligan or even a Tory. I haven't seen his school report card but maybe they don't do that anymore. I do recognise though that he is rebelling against life and in some ways, I quite like that.
We spent Sunday morning in the garden - I was chopping wood as usual but instead of helping, he threw stones at some beer cans he had put up on the fence. I suggested that this wasn't the best thing to do but he just said, "Shut it Grandad". You know, it's tough being a father these days.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
You know, a friend of mine gave me a heads-up on this astonishing and ground breaking development in the Glasgow Herald today. I rushed out to buy it! I don't take the Herald regularly as it is sadly parochial - unlike the Press and Journal which is, what shall we say, just local, but the property pages today offer a mouthwatering selection of tasty treats so I might have to break the subscriptions budget and sign up for it!
Anyway, entitled Business park to bank on, (cleverly combining three words which mean so much to entrepreneurs today not to mention the general public), this article describes a stunner - a one hundred percenter right between the eyes. Lomondgate Business Park will transform the Vale of Leven and Loch Lomond into something unique and wonderful. Like a conflation of Trafford Park and Lake Como, this fires a big cannonball across the bows of other unique developments in Scotland. Businessmen will be speedboating up and down Loch Lomond with their mobiles glued to their ears! Balloch cafes will be filled with suits doing deals and all this enterprise will trickle down into local employment of course as I've explained before!
It's fantastic! Cliché artist Andy Scott has been commissioned to produce a stag sculpture as a dramatic entrance to the business park - it's just another of his horses of course - but with horns this time, so it's an easy win for him. Amazing how even he has become commodified by the wonders of the business world.
I've picked out some of the main features of the proposed development below and you can see the rest here but just look at this list:
- buildings will have a 'Very Good' BREEAM rating, cleverly avoiding committing to the 'Excellent' rating
- carpet tiles - amazing!
- male and female toilets - that's one box ticked for the inclusiveness agenda
- tea preparation areas on each floor - a thoughtful touch indicating that women will indeed be employed there
Of course this development was approved before a planning application was submitted as we expect nowadays. The area is no stranger to classy upmarket developments so there's plenty of precedent as we expert planners say. I haven't written about the fabulous Lomond Shores yet or the other well known retail outlets in the area but this part of Scotland is literally studded with different ways to shop and do business. A veritable dynamo of the Scottish economy.
Two final points. The word Lomondgate suggests there is something wrong - think Watergate and many others, so not a great choice guys. Also, I make the comparison with Lake Como because of the timeless beauty of that area and the fact that it has historically contained much development. So the people who live in Loch Lomond needn't feel that they are being raped by enterprise or that the character of this well known beauty spot will change. After all, the Italian Fascist Party choose to have one of their headquarters buildings on the shores of Lake Como in the 1930s and people still travel from far and wide to see that today. No comparison intended with the Lomondgate Business Park of course.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
You know, I can't abide the fuss that's being made about the scrubber Kate Middleton and the inbred royal halfwit Prince William getting married next year. Apparently David Cameron was banging the table in sheer molten joy at the news and that says it all - thank you Julie Christie for that one. Of course it is a Tory wedding for Tory times, likely to be the main event in England next year, celebrated by street parties of inebriates across the land, banging their colonial drums and wishing that their stupid country was great again.
So why am I mentioning this? What can an expert planner like me have to say about this that is relevant to our dynamic world of Scottish property development? Well, it's a conservationist's dream event - just look what happened in the 1980s after the the Charles and Di show. Wall to wall historicism, half-timber and red brick - yes, you've all forgotten that - so red alert! The backcloth to that royal wedding was the everyday grim environment of brick terraces and houses with bits of wood stuck on that became a wash of English suburbia which we still see lapping on the shores of Cumbernauld and Inverness. The Persimmons, Barretts and Wimpeys of this world knew exactly what to do - build more of it - everywhere. Now I'm not opposed to a bit of development as you know - in fact I'm highly partial to it - but the likely outcome of this in Scotland is more half-timbered Highland Housing Expo junk - but all over the place.
But wait - there's more! St Andrews is a place that is tainted by royalty. William met her there didn't he? It's actually like a wee bit of England sitting like a bunion on the coast of our fair land - like Milltimber or Eaglesham, but more royal. I know St Andrews well and I'm always appalled by its horrible tweedie tidiness and its tearooms for old women. So they must takes some of the blame for the conservation wash - and maybe for New Urbanism too!
So anyway, I'm ranting on now. Good luck then to the enlarged Munsters, the Addams family or whatever you want to call them. And to the rest of us, look out for a conservation revival soon. In particular, the rise again of the Royal Wedding House.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
You know, I meant to write a few weeks ago about the deep poison in our professional planning world that is public consultation and the needless interference of busy-bodies - usually women - who obstruct our activities. I suppose it is a natural thing for women to interfere with men - as natural as doing the dishes or dusting the mantelpiece, sweeping the front path, making the bed or ironing their man's shirt. If they have a man that is.
It was the last issue of the Scottish Planner that really annoyed me but so much has happened in the last couple of weeks that I couldn't get round to writing this post. Everywhere in that issue, women with short hair are spouting about community engagement, mentoring, youth coaching and other namby-pamby activities which are almost entirely irrelevant in today's business-driven world of property-led planning and development. It's a clear case of trying to ring-fence an area of activity and calling it their own because they are so useless at the real meat of planning - enabling development by rich people.
The President of the RTPI is a women I think - but maybe that was last year - or even next year. Who cares? Even the President of the RIBA is a women - I saw her on the TV giving an award to Polish architect Zaza Hadid at the Stirling Awards which I commented on before. Some might say it's a conspiracy but I'm broad minded enough to think that there should be a role or two for women in planning - it's only fair. For example, receptionist duties or typing are both worthwhile areas of employment as is making the tea for meetings. Better still, all of these job areas can be found in the public and private sectors - the world of planning is so broad and inclusive isn't it?
I have a day off tomorrow. I'm waiting on a delivery of more logs for the fire and I will enjoy chopping them up at the weekend - I will think about the Scottish Planner as I am wielding my axe. It's my turn to get the boy for the weekend so I'm looking forward to that - even if he isn't - and I have some plans to take him to see some astonishing new developments. Stay tuned!
Friday, 12 November 2010
You know, I am guilty of concentrating on success stories on this blog - the work of Dr Donald Trump, the imperious Sir Ian Wood and lately, the brave Sir David Murray and his 1690 Village near Edinburgh called the Garden District. These will be the crown jewels of a smart successful Scotland - a risk taking culture shifting environment filled with generators of intensified economic activity, like Halfords, TK Maxx and of course B&Q - those elder statesmen of the retail park.
But what of the destitute towns of Central Scotland such as Kilsyth, Shotts and Bridge of Weir? What of the pauper villages of Aberdeenshire and the north east like Kemnay or Mintlaw where you can hardly hear yourself speak above the rattle of beggars' tin mugs?
Well, as we expert planners all know, the answer is through the trickle down of wealth from these three very rich people. Some guy in Mintlaw can do the plumbing in one of Trump's lavatories at Menie Estate - problem solved! Someone else can cut down the trees in Union Terrace Gardens for Sir Ian - that's more money in the local economy! There is even a job for a wee guy from Kilsyth hanging up the Union Jacks in Sir David's Garden District! Fantastic yes? So regenerating Scotland isn't rocket science now is it?
But when I think of the goons in London, the Royal Town Planning Institute, playing at their elections, it's hard to see some connection between them and the dynamic world of Scottish regeneration. Junior Vice President Colin Haystack and his band of place-men exhorting RTPI members to vote for who will be President in 2012. Humph - it's enough to give you the dry boak! Perhaps these guys would recommend a nice wee building facelift? Perhaps a new bench or a special tree in a public space? A bit of public art as a nice wee feature? Maybe give something planning permission? Turn the country around with a few advertisement hoardings? All these things come from the bumper fun book of planning ideas but for Scotland, they are irrelevant in the face of self-sustaining trickle down economic growth which will enliven our communities and bring riches beyond measure.
By the way, I tore up my ballot paper despite the chance to win a £5.00 book token for returning my vote. I will either resign from the Institute soon or stand for election to the Scottish Branch.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Let's go back and look at this through my expert planners eyes. I noticed in the Press and Journal this week that people have been getting their knickers in a twist about this brave new development so what is it exactly? Well it's a vast new extension to Edinburgh that dwarfs other proposals around the city - mixed use of course. The main feature of this is a boulevard centrepiece designed for all sorts of ceremonial marching events but especially Orange Parades. Built on derelict green belt, the proposal will revitalise the whole of Edinburgh. All the right boxes have been ticked - sustainability, transport, lifestyle and economics - all wrapped up in a charette process. It's an amazing idea put together by the Reverend Andrew Duany who does most of the planning for big business in Scotland these days! Andy knows how to oil the wheels of industry!
Now some might say that this proposal has no legs. But wait! Sir David has the endorsement of Scotland's Chief Planner, Wee Jimmy Mackinnon - already! It's a fantastic coo and sums up what I have been saying over the past few weeks - the need for planning permission is becoming increasingly redundant as all major developments are effectively being approved before planning applications are submitted. Look at the Great Dr Donald Trump saga at Menie or Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen - the epicentre of dynamic growth in Scotland, if not Europe.
It's a trend that knocks the conservationers for six and ushers in a whole New Enlightenment for Scotland in which the sandal-wearing lefty hippies are ground down and used as fertiliser. In the case of Edinburgh Garden District, Greenwash is replaced by Orangewash tricked out in red white and blue as Masonic Temples, homes for retired policemen, retreats for homosexual football referees and Orange Lodges punctuate the residential and retail plots with Union Jacks flying from every lamp post.
It's a trend that knocks the conservationers for six and ushers in a whole New Enlightenment for Scotland in which the sandal-wearing lefty hippies are ground down and used as fertiliser. In the case of Edinburgh Garden District, Greenwash is replaced by Orangewash tricked out in red white and blue as Masonic Temples, homes for retired policemen, retreats for homosexual football referees and Orange Lodges punctuate the residential and retail plots with Union Jacks flying from every lamp post.
At the end of the day, kites may have been flown, but people with money and power will always know what is best and how to get it. It's obvious that Wee Jimmy Mackinnon is a powerful man anyway but it seems he is also a lifelong Rangers man - not that this has in any way swayed his judgement. So there you have it - full marks to everyone involved in another fantastic Scottish development stamped all over with excellence. Personally I can't wait to see it happen.
Saturday, 6 November 2010
You know, everyone in Dundee will soon be speaking a few more words of Japanese than they do at the moment. In a few years time the five Japanese words known throughout Dundee - Banzai, Sushi and Tora! Tora! Tora! - will be supplemented by U~ōtāfuronto ni howaitoerefanto, or White Elephant on the Waterfront.
The announcement this week that Kengo Kuma and Associates will build the English Museum known as V&A as the centrepiece of the otherwise derelict waterfront project is a devastating body blow for the elite forces of the Scottish architectural fraternity. Sutherland Fussey, RMJM, Gareth Hopkins and others have seen their projects kicked into the Silvery Tay by the judges. Even my own favourite, the proposal by Snøhetta, which could have continued life as an Asda Superstore after it failed to attract any visitors, has been rejected!
Well, I'm reminded of the old Japanese proverb "Ti no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu" or "the frog in the well doesn't know the sea". The judges of this competition are certainly the frogs in the well. To live in a thermos flask, isolated from the realities of property development is a major flaw and shows a complete lack of understanding of the forces at work in Scotland today. Everywhere we look, retailers and housebuilders are getting planning permission to build anywhere - no one will say no! Fantastic! So why bother with an English Museum when Dundee could have more shops? As I've said many times before, what will attract more people? A Superstore or a Museum - it's obvious isn't it? The loons in Brechin and Forfar won't be travelling down to see the English Museum - they will be too busy getting high in Council estates and dunking their bridies in their beer for that. But they would go to a spanking new shopping development.
So too much gazing into the darkness of the well has brought Dundee to this sorry state of affairs. A quote from Emperor Hirohito is appropriate, “We have resolved to endure the unendurable and suffer what is insufferable.” That's what the good folks of Dundee have been saying for years and this proposal won't change it. Maybe a wee trip up to Aberdeen for those in charge would help - they certainly know how to do development with style and panache!
Monday, 1 November 2010
Impressive photie isn't it? Yesterday, and the Sunday before, I spent the day chopping wood for the fire. I was reminded by a friend on Facebook that wood warms us three times - when we chop it, when we stack it and when we burn it. I would like to add a fourth. When we burn someone at the stake with it.
Out in the garden amidst the advancing autumnal colours, every log had someone's face on it. So when my axe fell, those who had tried to derail my career over the years were dispatched to oblivion. Very therapeutic. Those women at the public meetings with their smug husbands wearing baseball caps. The people who once wrote graffiti on my desk or in the executive toilet at the office. The consultants who treated me like a lower form of life - even though I desperately want to be like them. They were now firewood.
Anyway I was angrily chopping away when I began to realise how good I felt. I felt purged and clean - but I needed more! Slowly a strategy began to develop - as an expert planner, this was easy. I looked at the potato patch. It had done its work for this year - six potatoes at the most and not a great success - but the recently turned over soil reminded me of something I read in a book.
I waited in the kitchen for darkness to fall, then waited for another hour. It was a clear moonlit night - then the time was right. I stripped naked and ran into the garden, throwing myself onto the earth of the potato patch. I lay on my back looking at the stars with my hands digging into the soft earth. I did some forward somersaults. I lay on my front writhing around, grasping at the soil and pressing myself into it. I almost lost my glasses. I felt a sense of déjà view - it was like visiting the landscaping at Ferry Village near Renfrew all over again where I was transfixed by the work of those Goliaths of Scottish design - Ian White Associates. Bleak and unsettling, tactile and spellbinding.
When it was all over I needed a bath of course then settled down to watch Desperate Housewives - the less said about them the better. All in all a great day and a grand primer for some great planning this week.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
You know, I occasionally like to share some of my wide ranging planning expertise here so that I can enlighten folk who are less knowledgeable than I am so I'm going to fill you in about public art and its uses in the exciting world of town planning. Most commonly, it's what we call "a nice wee feature", often used at a "gateway" to a regeneration area or even as the centrepiece of a business park or shopping centre. Often it can be used to indicate where you might find a public toilet. Useful. That wooden frog above is a sure sign that something has happened in the area - large wooden frogs don't just appear by the roadside overnight in my experience.
Animals are very popular and one of my favourites is this lovely wee metal dog and his master from somewhere down south. Truly a triumphant work and a very meaningful piece too that resonates with the times - a boy and his dog go shopping - how very apt. So full marks and a big tick for the genius that dreamt up this one.
Now it's true that this sort of thing has been around for a while dating back to Roman times perhaps - or at least to when the Romans were driven out of Scotland by the Picts in 1066 - for example above (courtesy of Google Streetview) you can see a piece of public art over 1000 years old that commemorates that very event on the Antonine Wall near Cumbernauld. Excuse me if my grasp of history is a little sketchy here but you get the idea. This is a great wee feature if ever there was one - clever of the Romans.
But perhaps my all time favourite is this composition above - nothing whatsoever to do with the lovely young lady on the left I assure you - but a really attractive feature. Like a fireplace - but without the fire.
So you can see, public art is not only a force for good but also an excellent way of showing that town planners have been hard at work in an area. Sooner than you can say "women with blazing chip pans", public art tells you that you are in a depraved community that has placed its first foot on the ladder of progress - thanks to town planning.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
You know, a year ago at this time I was posting almost every day about the amazing developments I had found across the length and breadth of Scotland - literally from Gretna Green to John o' Groats. I was consumed by it. I remember the frisson of running my fingers over the cladding of Tesco at Port Glasgow - austere and elemental, impeccably detailed. I was enraptured with wonder - my mouth was dry. I remember the shiver down my spine as I passed by the frozen food section. The human touch of the friendly pigeons flying around inside.
It was living proof that town planning is one of the most satisfying of the professions and it's role in enabling development is crucial to the economy of the country - and England too. At the same time, the unnecessary and uncalled for abuse that I received for my support of Donald Trump and Sir Ian Wood was cruel and hurtful, so much so that I shut down the blog for a spell.
As you all know, I have lived alone since my beautiful wife left me for her young lover, taking my son, who now calls me Grandad, to live a few miles away. I never see her - she drops off the boy with a mutual friend once a fortnight and I have to pick him up. Usually we go for a drive to a retail park - we are both happy there - for a while. She makes me feel like a leper.
But as I sit beside this electric fire with winter's icy fingers clawing at my wee house, I can't help feeling that depression is beginning to grip me again. I think of our public meetings filled with overweight, hectoring, middle class, interfering women wearing brightly coloured cardigans - and I want to attack them with my axe. Yes I do.
The bowling club closed for winter three weeks ago so I'm at a loose end but tomorrow I will use the axe to chop some wood for the fire and I will enjoy the physical activity and the violence of it all. Life is precious isn't it?
I'm sure my regular readers were all agog this week at the stimulating news from across the border of dramatic cuts in public spending by the Tories. Particularly relevant to the exciting world of town planning was the news that CABE (The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) was to be flushed down the toilet of common sense. This is a major boost for the nation's development industry as CABE notoriously tried to block some very fine projects and of course architects resented their interference in the design process too. So architects and developers can now do what they want - which is fantastic news isn't it?
For those working in CABE, the key words here are 'package', 'early retirement' and 'consultancy'. I've said many times before that every change in government policy conceals a human tragedy of some kind - but also an opportunity. So as the memory of CABE rots on the compost heap, let's see what this might mean for Scotland when the axe is swung next year. What sort of message has it sent to Wee Fat Alex Salmond, a man who likes to oil the wheels of industry?
First of all, Architecture and Design Scotland (A+DS) may be binned - it is the equivalent of CABE with a similar reputation for stopping things happening in the dynamic world of Scottish property development. So while there may be no more Bakewell Tarts in Bakehouse Close there will be many more fine developments throughout Scotland like Glasgow Harbour, the Tesco at Port Glasgow and of course like the amazing developments of that dynamic duo in Aberdeenshire - Sir Ian and Dr Donald! This is a certainty - property folk are just waiting to be set free and the demise of A+DS would be a gigantic first step. So when the bonfire of the kangaroos comes to Scotland they could be the first to go.
A final point. The huge opportunity for the development industry created by the disappearance of A+DS will only be maximised if planning departments disappear too. As I've suggested in recent posts, the heavy weight of bureaucracy pressing down on our marvellous development industry is a big negative for Scotland. So let's have some clear radical thinking next time round and bin the planning departments!
Sunday, 17 October 2010
You know, I'm finding it very hard to hold myself back from driving down to Edinburgh and giving Eddie Barnes of Scotland on Sunday a piece of my mind. If I didn't have some important meetings this week, that's exactly what I would do. The newspaper has broken cover with a complete non-story, published in a deliberate attempt to smear Dr Donald Trump and the Scottish Government. The suggestion is that the Scottish Government promised Trump that his development would go ahead - before the public inquiry. Well of course they promised that! Moreover it has been placed in the newspaper by the Labour Party and by conservationists. It is nonsense from beginning to end and here's why:
- It is the responsibility of government to act in the best interests of the country - Wee Fat Alex Salmond called in the planning application on the grounds that "the decision put the integrity of the planning process in jeopardy". How true that is! You just can't argue with that!
- Wee Fat Alex Salmond told Trump, "You will win". Well of course he would win - everyone knew that so it didn't need a crystal ball to see that the government was going to support the development at all costs. It's called 'enabling' in our expert planner parlance.
- I was personally invited to an event at Holyrood at which I heard the First Prime Minister say that he had to 'make something happen' with the Trump development. Of course. It is the responsibility of government to do this rather than stand in the sidelines while there is endless bickering between a Council and a bunch of beggars and conservationists who wear sandals and live in railway carriages in the woods.
So this is a total non-story, placed in an unsuspecting press by a bunch of bitter and twister conservationists. Please bear that in mind when you are reading it.
Saturday, 16 October 2010
You know, the Scottish section of Planning really is on the ball these days with a cutting edge article this week about permitted development rights. I find this very surprising considering it is written by the idiots in the RTPI - but more about them later. Run-of-the-mill people can't access this virtual treasure trove of information but I'm always delighted to bring you a little titbit to brighten up your day.
Well, as I've hinted in recent posts, the planning system is 'circling the drain' as doctors say of those about to pass on. The latest news from Wee Fat Alex Salmond's people is that permitted developments could be cut next year - apparently 97% of householder applications are approved anyway so why bother with the remaining 3%? Exactly - a big tick and a gold star there.
So maybe 4,000 applications will be taken out of the system cutting out the need for many development control planners who will find themselves quite rightly on the dole. Yes - behind every major success story there is human tragedy - but this is precisely the kick in the backside that planners need! Too often they are found in the toilets of Council offices reading the Sun or the Daily Record. It's about time they were given proper work to do - like planning the future instead of stopping people building barbeques - catalysing property development instead of cheating at sudoku - really the sky is the limit. But they can't all be brilliant visionaries - like me! So many will face a bleak future once the gravy train of processing planning applications oozes to a brown halt at the buffers of progress.
The RTPI has to have a serious look at how they have accelerated the collapse of the planning system. They need to create people who can work with the likes of Dr Donald Trump or Sir Ian Wood to enable them to move their visions forward - to grease the developers pole rather than produce fodder for dole queues. Mark my words - there will come a time very soon when planning applications themselves will be taken out of the system. And then it will be Local Development Plans for the chop. Then what? So wake up you goons in London and get working on a new generation of planner - before it is too late!
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
You know, I had to laugh the other day when I came across Wendy Alexander crying into her broken mirror (the one she broke by looking into it) about the decision to sell off the land that would have accommodated GARL - the Glasgow Airport Rail Link - just because it would have been in her constituency - had it ever been built.
Now as an expert planner, I know a fair bit about infrastructure as well as human nature and believe me, there was never the faintest chance of people using this rail link - except for guys on the Buckfast who were too drunk to get on the right train from Glasgow Central. Two good reasons why it would never work:
- firstly business people don't want to sit in a stinking old diesel train. It would be absurd for our generals of industry to be seen on the maroon and cream train that marks people out as plebs and chavs. Right?
- second reason - nobody in business wants to fly from Glasgow Airport as it is a second rate shopping mall filled with drunken halfwits flying off to Benidorm and Torremolinos for a fortnight of burds and bevvy (not my words of course). Big business, especially the upper echelons of property development don't want to be associated with this sort of thing. For example you wouldn't find Dr Donald Trump or Sir Ian Wood on the train to Glasgow Airport - would you?
Sunday, 10 October 2010
You know, I struggled all day on Friday to attend the event that put the Stirling Prize into perspective for me. First of all the car wouldn't start then I got a puncture at Inverurie so I arrived after my heroes had gone. I was devastated as you can imagine. Anyway, Donald Trump was awarded a well deserved Doctorate by Robert Gordon University but guess who presented it to him? Yes - Sir Ian Wood!
When I saw the picture of them (above) together in the Press and Journal I realised the sheer spurting dynamic chemistry between them. There's a raw drive and vision in both men to get things done despite the odds - the atmosphere at the ceremony must have been truly electrifying!
Both men used the opportunity to remind locals that if their respective developments did not go ahead, Aberdeenshire would become a desert filled with beggars and old people desperately searching through litter bins for their breakfast while sheep grazed in Union Terrace Gardens. This is of course only partly true - yes the north east would become a desert but really everybody knows that these developments are going ahead anyway. There is no risk of failure.
As the Editor of the P&J says, the silent majority must stand up and the vocal minority must sit down. And as I've said before, people with knighthoods, doctorates, power and money know best - the rest should be happy to follow them. Fantastic - yes this is one in the eye for the proles and all in all, a very clever bit of action by Robert Gordon's Chancellor to ratchet up the game a little more in Aberdeenshire! More power to them!