Saturday, 30 October 2010

A nice wee feature

 a nice wee feature beside the Forth and Clyde Canal
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.
a boy and his dog go shopping - a fabulously apt message
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.
an old bit of Roman public art near the Antonine Wall
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.
a proud young lady and her lovely creation
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

Life is precious

inside the Tesco at Port Glasgow - can you spot the pigeon?
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?

Another triumph for the UK development industry

the secret HQ of A+DS in Bakehouse Close, Edinburgh
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.
the Chairman of A+DS is a woman - how much worse can things get?
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

Scotland on Sunday is Trump's enemy

the Great Doctor Donald Trump
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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
I've been critical of this government in the past but I realise now that they have the best interests of the development industry at heart and recognise a world-beating proposal when they see one. This is why noteworthy projects like Glasgow Harbour, Edinburgh Waterfront and Inverurie Retail Park have all gone ahead despite many objections from the great unwashed. Even the McDonalds in my home town of Lenzie is aspirational in terms of environmental design - and food! All these developments have set new standards of excellence which are a model for us all to follow.

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

Another nail in the coffin for planning

a new housing development like this may not need planning permission
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

Glasgow Airport's Rail Link will be sold off

the useless rail link on stilts
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.
a very big bridge for a wee train
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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
So I hate to say it but wee fat Alex Salmond was right to cancel this daft project. Selling off the land to enable new development in the area - even if it is long and thin - is the right answer, so full marks and a big tick to the guys who thought this one up. I also look forward to plans for a wider motorway being announced in the near future - now that is the way to travel to the airport!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Dr Donald and Sir Ian Show

Dr Trump and Sir Ian Wood - the saviours of the north east
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!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

It's Ravenscraig Town Centre - again!

the exciting masterplan for Ravenscraig
You know, when it comes to implementing a development of national importance, you have to pick the right team - guys who can create dazzling designs, folk who can bend the rules, traffic engineers who can invent a good TIA (that's a traffic impact analysis for the uninformed) and most important of all, people who can humiliate the local government planners with speed, creativity and élan.

Well! My personal copy of Planning this week described exactly how this can be done. It's a new plan for Ravenscraig in Motherwell - a derelict area of old steel works that were flattened years ago. Now try to hold yourselves together while I reveal the dynamic team who will do this work:
  • Project managers - Turner and Townsend: a firm who have some of the sharpest pencils in Scotland
  • Architects - Cooper Cromar: one of the most blatantly commercial firms around having produced numerous retail and residential schemes over the years - a big tick
  • Planners - Muir Smith Evans: bible-bashing Christians but brilliant at getting planning permission and winning appeals - their approach is Evangelical!
  • Engineers - URS Corporation: fresh from eating Scott Wilson but may have indigestion
  • Traffic - Colin Buchanan: fresh from doing Traffic in Towns - a few years back though
  • Big Architecture - Keppie Design: the most important element in the package of course with armpits full of talent!
There are other folk involved who are expert box tickers like Grontmij, DSSR, Gleeds and Heritage Environmental who will be excellent at enabling and form filling - don't laugh but this is a critical part of the job these days. Personally I can't wait to see what they come up with! All in all, this is one of the most impressive teams ever assembled in Scotland - if not the world.
an example of the design aspiration for the job - outstanding!
Now a word of caution - proposals for Ravenscraig have been around for years and in fact there are new proposals for the site almost every year. This is something that Scottish Enterprise insist on - it's a sort of testing to destruction of all the options. You know the sort of thing - well this hasn't worked so we will try some other people - okay so that didn't work either - so let's try someone else. Been there - done that when I worked with people like Bill Morton and Stuart Gulliver in Bothwell Street all those years ago.
one of the site's badgers who will be 'moved on' - after being monitored and photographed
Everyone knows that the biodiversity angle is important these days so the orchids, badgers, wildflowers and insect species have had their boxes ticked already - great isn't it? Also public art gets a big tick too of course with the obligatory involvement of young creative people in the process. This is all too good to be true. Well it isn't actually true - it's just a fictional composition of the sort of bits and pieces that make up a good planning application these days.

So 10/10 from me with a gold star and a big tick in my notebook. It is truly the power and the glory of town planning. This must be one of the finest projects around at the moment and I'll try to keep you up to date on its progress. What an exciting world we live in!

The Stirling Prize is for Poseurs!

the winner
You know, it's a week to the day since I sat here with the ferrets watching the Stirling Prize on the TV - it still rankles with me, partly as I could have been watching Strictly, but especially because I realised I was wasting my time tuning in to luvvies, pseuds and poseurs having a great evening together. Remember back in August last year I wrote this post about the Lighthouse in Glasgow and how I wouldn't miss it? Well I felt the same way about this programme and all the pretentious people they had dragged out to patronise and humiliate me with their London ways - give me my baseball bat please! Yet again, I felt like a country bumpkin despite my tremendous record of building and my extensive knowledge of architecture and town planning.

So this is really an award for those and those isn't it? No Keppies, no 3DReid and even RMJM were unrepresented - outrageous! Avant-guard firms like Bracewell Stirling and the Holmes Partnership didn't get a mention and neither did Glasgow Harbour, the Asda at Ardrossan or the Halfords at Inverurie. No Scottish representation at all - and this is the Stirling Prize. Something is wrong somewhere. And when it came to the moment when the winner was announced, well, I couldn't have cared less.

I shouldn't say it but I hated all these folk - the presenter from Grand Designs with his ears pushed forward by all that studio technology hiding behind them or the wee guy Tom with the big words who was all dressed up - many times. I'll tell you, I wouldn't like to meet him on a dark night on the moors - well to be fair, he wouldn't want to meet me either I'm sure. Sorry to be so grumpy.
Amanda Levete - the really winner!
But every cloud has a silver lining and I've fallen for the lovely Amanda Levete who appeared briefly on the programme. Now there is a worthy prize winner! I wonder if she has any reason to be in Scotland soon - probably not.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A cathedral to business at Peterhead

what the fantastic Energetica Industry Park might look like!
You know, when I say that Aberdeenshire is the new epicentre of dynamic growth in Scotland (if not in Europe) I mean what I say. When I read my Press and Journal this morning I was doubly thrilled - so much so that I forgot to feed the ferrets before I left for work. My mind was literally buzzing with the sheer business acumen and bravado of folk across in the north east. But wait - things get better! One of my all time favourite design firms is responsible for this project - a massive business and technology park on the edge of Peterhead designed by Keppies! Amazing!
again, what the fantastic Energetica Industry Park might look like!
Now this is a mind boggling project - a 300 acre site providing over 1,400 jobs in over 5.4 million square feet of business, storage and industrial units. It's called the Energetica Industry Park - amazing! The project has been shown to an adoring public and a planning application will be submitted in November. This is planning-speak for letting the public know that planning permission has already been granted. Believe me, it's a sort of nudge-nudge wink-wink thing that we planning experts do. You see, the goons in the RTPI know that the game is a bogey and that you can't stop the wheels of industry - only domestic extensions and some hot food shops get refused these days. So Keppies will get the green light - that is guaranteed.
some of the people who might work there
Now I don't have any wee photies of the actual proposal so I put these together by imagining what it will be like - a veritable cathedral to business, glistening in the sunlight, reflecting in the North Sea and visible for miles around. Now you can guess what they will be making there - yes, golf balls for Dr Donald Trump's world-beating golf course just down the road to name but a few. It's what we expert planners call a cluster of excellence and you can also imagine factories being established to produce flags for the greens, sports bags and plastic seagulls. Really, the sky is the limit.

So congratulations to Keppies for another world beating design initiative. It's a fantastic boost for an area that is already doing better than the rest of Scotland put together. The march of development over the countryside continues apace and soon, Aberdeen and Peterhead will link up in an ark of prosperity the likes of which has never been seen before, casting hundreds of agricultural workers off the land and into proper employment, leaving the sheep to run for the hills. For Peterhead, the future is assured.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Woolly thinking in Dundee

the exciting Asda proposal for Dundee
You know, when I receive my personal copy of Planning every week from the RTPI goons in London, I always go straight to the Scottish news. There is some good news this week for Dundee as the Court of Session has dismissed a bid by Tesco to block plans for a new Asda store on the former NCR site at Wester Gourdie. That's great news for Dundee and for Asda - sales of the best Lorne Sausage that money can buy will continue and the good people of Dundee will have the choice they deserve. However in my expert planning view there is a very large fly in the ointment - some might say a big bluebottle.
the Sutherland Hussey proposal - but who are they?
The English museum commonly known as the V&A or Victoria and Albert is to build a satellite on the banks of the River Tay and it has been the subject of an international architectural competition, the shortlist of which was also announced this week. But what a load of rubbish - no Keppies and no Halliday Fraser Munro though I believe that the Great Dr Donald Trump's manservant architect Gareth Hopkins is playing a minor role in one of the teams. Here's another joke building, this time by Rex - I had a dog called Rex when I was a boy.
the Rex proposal
Anyway, the point is that this is all wrong. Asda should locate on the waterfront and adopt one of the shortlisted proposals - yes? So what would attract more people and spending? A big Asda or an English Museum? The answer is clear and my proposal is shown below - I got wee Robbie, the technician in the office, to knock this one up for me. It's a proposal by a firm called Snøhetta - first their proposal then my brilliant suggestion underneath!
Snøhetta original proposal

Snøhetta original proposal + my brilliant idea
Fantastic! I know that Royalist Director of Planning Mike Galloway OBE will immediately see the error of his ways and go down the common sense route of retail rather than a dull old English Museum. That's the power of town planning!