Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas Sabotage!

the sign of the missing image file
You know, I've been absolutely frantic over the past few weeks. I discovered that most of my lovely cherished photos were missing from my wee blog for 2009 - one of my most fertile periods. They were replaced by a big triangle the same as the one above - dozens of black boxes and white triangles! My lovely wee blog was critically injured and sabotaged. I was in tears.

I checked with Google to find out what had happened and soon the truth dawned on me. Now I didn't know this but when you have a Blogger blog like this one, all your images are stored on a Picasa site - I didn't even know I had one! Well I do now and I've found out that a complete folder of images was deleted from my Picasa site, irretrievably, by someone close to me. The person who did this was my own son - the boy! I've never hit the boy but I came very close to it this time.

I haven't talked much about my personal life recently as there hasn't been much to say. I haven't seen my beautiful wife in over a year although I still take the boy out every second weekend. He is handed over to me by an intermediary. I don't enjoy it much - he has become a monster. A selfish inconsiderate young thug, always wanting the latest gadgets, always wanting more - obviously going to be a Young Conservative if you ask me. It's clear that he isn't being brought up properly by my wife and her young lover - yes they are still together - but what can I do?

Anyway it has taken me two weeks to try to put it all back together again. Some of the images were rescued from Google but the quality isn't the same. I was heartbroken when I discovered that the great shot I took of my new male friends hiking in Austria was missing - I was fair blubbering into my keyboard when I discovered that. Inconsolable! I've got a poor quality version back but it isn't the same.

So there are a couple of lessons for the Festive Season. Firstly, always back up your data and your website. Secondly if you have a son who is the victim of a marraige broken by lust and the pleasures of the flesh, don't let him near your computer and don't tell him your password. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Perth enters the 21st Century

the depressing exterior of Perth's City Halls
You know, I was keeping my powder dry on the subject of the Perth City Hall demolition until the dust had cleared. But this morning I received my personal copy of Project Scotland, - the wonderful construction news magazine that features many photographs of 'Village People' type men in hard hats and other entrancing visions of a better Scotland revolutionised by the development industry - and just had to set out my stance on this as an expert planner.

So let's get started! The story is that Councillors in Perth have approved plans to splash out some £4.4m on a demolition operation to clear the city’s B listed City Halls in order to create room for a new square! Fantastic! According to Urban Realm (the best source of gossip and tittle-tattle about architecture in Scotland) the dreadful and depressing building has lain empty for years since the Council constructed a new concert venue. So you can see that it is ripe for demolition. Indeed it is low hanging fruit if I might continue the organic analogy.

It's hard to see what the fuss is all about isn't it? A derelict building being cleared away to make a new square or perhaps to make way for a new development such as a small Tesco and car park - so what? Well let me tell you that this would be an excellent initiative and would free the taxpayer of a huge liability. In fact consultants hired by the Council (probably the excellent Halcrow) speak of an additional spend per person per visit of £23 as a result of an increase in visitor numbers and lengths of stay in the vicinity of the building. This is because people don't like old buildings and prefer to be in a place where there is new development and beautiful people rather than the fat women in sandals and brightly coloured cardigans who hang about old buildings.

No doubt the conservation movement will be gearing up to protect this old ruin but they will be wasting their time as Perth decides to enter the 21st Century by having a truly contemporary centre. In fact this is just the first small step for a Council whose huge ambition and foresight could see most of the city centre's old building stock cleared away in a dramatic move to place it in the same league as Aberdeen.

Good luck to Perth and Kinross Council - they are demonstrating the very best in modern planning and I have have given this project a gold star and 9 out of 10 in my little notebook. We should all give them every support!

Monday, 5 December 2011

The true heart of Aberdeen

Sir Ian Wood's fantastic seat of power
You know, I meant to tell you about this a few weeks ago but somehow it slipped my mind. To be honest, I've been on the edge of my seat waiting for the results of the Union Terrace Gardens competition - in the full expectation that nothing short of the complete levelling of the existing gardens will triumph but sadly there is no news yet.

Meantime, I thought you would be fascinated and excited to read my report on the true beating heart of enterprise in Aberdeen. No it isn't Union Street - it vanished as a great part of town many years back. No it isn't Union Square either though it is certainly worth a big gold star in my little notebook. It's the headquarters of the Wood Group nestling in East Tullos Industrial Estate just across the railway from the slums of Torry. You can see the clever strategy at work here - baiting the plebs with a great view of rich people at work. David Cameron would be proud! This is the working home of Aberdeen's Giant of Enterprise, Economic Colossus and Patron of the Arts, Sir Ian Wood. This is where it all happens and it's the beating heart of the city.
reminiscent of the giant black stone slab in 2001 A Space Odyssey spot the monkeys
I drove down there in the autumn and boy was I excited! The first thing that struck me was the amazingly high standard of design - the elegant entrance sign, reminiscent of the giant black stone slab in 2001 A Space Odyssey that the monkeys gathered round. Same idea here but in silver and red. I expect that all employees will wear a uniform - and they will be proud to do so.

As an expert planner I was totally numbed by the extent of the surface car park - a truly great design - and so large that I could barely make out the headquarters building beyond. Fantastic! As I've said many times before, the size of a car park is in direct proportion to the virility of the designers and the success of the business attached to it. So the Wood Group are no slouches! As I peered through the security fencing I could just make out the stunning cream coloured walls and the rustic pitched roof of the offices. Amazing, or 'awesome' as the boy would say. I was perspiring and trembling with excitement.
a view over the vast car park
You know, once Sir Ian gets his hands on Union Terrace Gardens we are in for a real design treat. He is so obviously a man of great taste and judgement and entirely the best person to redesign the centre of Aberdeen, making a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is Union Terrace Gardens. So if the same talents in architecture, landscape design and town planning that laid out the Wood Group HQ are let loose on Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen will become one of the design centres of the World. Without question.

But meantime, let's try to be patient and see if there is any news this week - keep your eyes peeled for an announcement in the Press and Journal! I know it's a terrible newspaper but it's cheap and it loves Dr Donald and Sir Ian so buy it!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Scottish Borders Council Farce

Scottish Housebuilding at its finest - what's the problem?
You know, I was enraged the other day to read about the decision of Scottish Borders Council to refuse permission for a striking new development by Springfield Homes on design grounds. If you look at this great image above, you will see just how fabulous new homes really are in Scotland. So what's the problem and what do folk who work for one of Scotland's most forgettable Councils know about design? A bunch of paper pushing bureaucrats, grey men in suits and fat women! If they don't watch out, they will find themselves being reorganised in the near future!

Now to be honest, I haven't seen the plans of this marvellous new development but, as an expert planner, I can tell you that it will be as good as any other volume builder housing development - in other words, completely excellent in every way especially with regard to design.
the fabulous headquarters of Stewart Milne Homes at Westhill,Aberdeen
And talking about excellent housebuilding, I happened to drive past Wee Stewartie Milne's fabulous company headquarters near Aberdeen the other day. It's just off Enterprise Drive - what an appropriate street name! I felt the electricity in the air - that buzz of Enterprise and Deal Making! The warm ether of human values and the big metaphorical cuddle of care for people simply looking for a place to stay - a place to call their own home. I felt myself stimulated beyond measure - the fuel gauge on my dashboard said FULL! I was sweating profusely and my shirt and trousers were stained with dampness - my throat was dry as I shouted, "Come and get me! I'm your man! Give me a job you wonderful Tory Housebuilders! Humiliate me and lock me in your basement!" Well by the time I got home I was exhausted. That's what passion does to a man and that's what's lacking in Scottish Borders Council. It's also what makes Wee Stewartie Milne and Scotland's other great housebuilders so fecund.

I was intrigued today by this non-story in the centrist London Rag The Guardian about house builders lobbying the Government. You can be sure that Scotland's great house builders were part of this lobbying exercise which seems to have been successful of course. Say what you like about the Tories - we all hate them up here but they always help out their rich friends while identifying the Enemies of Enterprise - like Scottish Borders Council - which is most definitely not open for business.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The White Worm of Union Terrace, Aberdeen

the Big White Worm interior - full of lay-abouts and sheep-shaggers
You know, I found myself standing fully to attention the other day when I saw the first pictures and read the amazing news about the Big White Worm proposed for Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen. Now it isn't clear if this scheme has been selected by the imperious Sir Ian Wood - the business and cultural primate of the entire city - or if this is the design option that has had the public literally screaming for more at the exhibition of proposals. Or both!
a Christmas scene for Aberdeen's ignorati
But wait! Wasn't the whole idea to fill in the derelict gardens, sweeping away opportunities for sordid bestiality and gay pick-up points in bushes before you could say 'multi-storey car park'? I certainly thought so but this design doesn't seem to do that. I'm not impressed by the Christmas Card graphics either - a sugary image aimed at the ignorati of the city. It's true that you have to discipline yourself (as I do every evening) to look beyond the graphics and although the Big White Worm may have got saliva running in Aberdeen, it is a false dawn - believe me. What is required here is a sunken shopping centre beneath a large paved park - a bit like Red Square built over the gorgeous Braehead shopping centre. That's what Sir Ian has in mind I'm sure.
the obvious answer
But we will have to wait for a few days yet while the great minds figure out how best to ignore an entirely ignorant public and proceed with the scheme they wanted all along. Personally I thought that the original Halliday Fraser Munro scheme was a work of true genius but better minds than mine decided that a competition was necessary - so be it! I was delighted to read that Wee Fat Alex Salmond has promised £70 million to keep this brilliant initiative on target - and in so doing, has dashed the chances of a bunch of no hope projects in Central Scotland where there is simply no drive, vision or economy for that matter - apart from the fabulous work by those clever folk at Glasgow Harbour, Strathclyde Passenger Transport and Forth Ports who will always tick my boxes.
the dismal white worm again
As I've said many times before, we should all entrust ourselves to people who have money, power and vision. In so doing, we will bring success and riches on ourselves and make Aberdeen not only the powerhouse of Scotland but the economic power station of Europe - if not the world. Let's get on with this great project!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The shame of the Kelpies

the Kelpies by cliche artist Andy Scott - each head will contain a public toilet - male on the left, female on the right - photo by Graeme Gilmour
You know, a fan of mine alerted me today through a social media network of which I am a privileged member to a new competition organised by that great institution, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). They have been commissioned by Falkirk Council to select a multi-disciplinary team to design the internal space within a giant sculpture of a horse’s head. The structure will be set within one of two horses head sculptures, ‘The Kelpies’, designed by dreadful cliché artist and millionaire Andy Scott who you would be forgiven for thinking is Scotland's only public artist or sculptor. Yes every public art installation will look the same - just like in the good old Soviet Union. He is also a judge in the competition so everything is going well for him.

The competition also seeks the design of a complementary visitor hub on the same site - I think they mean a public toilet. When I read this I immediately thought that Keppies would be the obvious choice for this work and I hope they will be entering the competition along with Halliday Fraser Munro and ADF, all of whom are highly talented thought-leaders in the field of public toilet provision especially in the green belt.

Although this sounds fine, I have to question the basis of this work and the need to have these awful sculptures lying about in a field in the first place. Is it only me that sees them as a waste of public money at a time when we all live in fear of our jobs? Scotland is a great wee country you know but it is sadly prone to these outbreaks of stupidity.
Leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson
What we need is for someone to come out and say that this is rubbish instead of everyone nodding and agreeing to punt Andy Scott yet another fat fee. Perhaps Ruth Davidson, our gorgeous new leader of the Scottish Tories has a few words to say? She looks like a woman who has her scones in the oven. I will never vote Tory - and neither will anyone else I know - but condemnation from her would be like warm milk in my ears. This nonsense has to stop now!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Fantastic happenings at Glasgow Harbour

the fantastic Beith Street development proposal
You know, with more and more fantastic commercial developments smashing their way through through the misguided hopes and aspirations of inbred conservation minded communities across Scotland - all with the support of a new wave of market orientated neoliberal local councils - it is hard for me to single out specific instances of excellence. There are just so many fantastic developments around that I am genuinely spoiled for choice.
plan of the amazing Beith Street development
But there are some exceptional things happening and it didn't take me long to identify those apron-wearing masters of the compass and square, ADF and Glasgow Harbour Ltd, as the authors of an astonishingly bold proposal for Beith Street in Glasgow. They've lodged a grand planning application which brilliantly challenges established concepts of what good design should look like. Those new blocks marching down to the river excite me enormously! When I first saw it I jumped out of my seat and hit my head on my reading lamp. The scheme is described here ( by the bankrupt and secretive organisation known as A+DS who called it in for Design Review but couldn't find enough cliches to praise it.
the brilliant tactical genius and head of Glasgow Harbour, Sir Euan Jamieson
I must say that Glasgow Harbour has always been one of my all-time favourite developments and the brilliant genius in charge, Sir Euan Jamieson, is clearly a man of culture, intense vision, intellectual might and overwhelming good taste. You know, it would be great if he could bring some of his style and panache to the rest of Scotland. Can you imagine what would happen if he joined forces with Dr Donald Trump and Sir Ian Woods? The possibilities are endless and amazing! The opportunity is there to finish off Scotland's faceless culture of local authority planning once and for all, substituting it with a dynamic market led blitzkrieg and scorched earth policy of wall-to-wall Tesco and Stewart Milne-like developments that will make our wee country a world leader in town planning, hopefully with me at the helm once wee Jimmy Mackinnon retires!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

In praise of Neil Baxter and the RIAS!

the intelligent and attractive Neil Baxter - boss of the RIAS
You know, I've been doing a little research today on Neil Baxter, the illustrious head of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland or RIAS for short. He came to my attention this morning when he publicly exposed himself to the pretentious, snobbish and elitist modernist hordes on Urban Realm and Twitter by praising and defending the wonderful designs for Dr Donald Trump's new Clubhouse at Menie prepared by servant architect Gareth Hopkins with the assistance of Acanthus Architects based in Torry, a slum near Aberdeen. This is the link to the Scotsman article.

Secretary & Treasurer of the RIAS, Neil was previously principal of his own architectural and interpretation consultancy and Development Director of GBPT. He has lectured on urbanism, written for The Daily Telegraph, Herald, Sunday Herald, Homes & Interiors and the AJ, and is a frequent media spokesman so he knows his onions, so to speak.

Neil wrote 'The Wee Green Book', a history of Glasgow Green, co-authored Pat Lally’s 'Lazarus Only Done it Once', edited the Glasgow medieval history, 'A Tale of Two Towns', the monograph 'Matt Steele, Architect, A Biography' and 'A Life in Cities', the autobiography of David Mackay (MBM, Barcelona). In May 2008, Neil received Glasgow’s Lord Provost’s Award for services to heritage. All in all, his CV is an impressive mouthful and he is more than qualified to speak on matters of design.

Now I have to say at the outset that I am not stalking Neil but he does seem like a nice chap - good looking and intelligent, with extraordinary taste and judgement. He is also very brave as his defence of this marvellous building will surely bring calls for his resignation as a betrayer, a whited sepulchre and a modernist denier. Humph! More likely he will be called to the Trump HQ at Menie to prostate himself at the feet of the great one himself and be lathered with sumptuous gifts. For my part, I wish Neil all the best and commend him and his organisation to everyone who is interested in Scottish Architecture and Planning.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Menie Clubhouse - a work of genius

the totally magnificent Gareth Hoskins design for Dr Donald Trump's Clubhouse at Menie
You know, it was only the other day that I was recounting the wonderful stream of good news from Aberdeen where just north of the city, God's Own Golf Course is taking shape at Menie. Today, I have to report the fantastically breathtaking news that the designs for the new Clubhouse have been announced on Urban Realm, the premier portal for news and gossip about planning, architecture and the dynamic Scottish property industry.

Well! I'm sure you're all completely taken aback by the magnificence of the design by Gareth Hopkins, Trump's supine architect. The inspiration for this was obviously one of these old secondary schools from Ellon or some other Aberdeenshire slum but it has been updated with modern detailing which will give it 'visual and tactile clues'. A clever move on young Gareth's part and clearly a strategic move towards winning work from the Prince's Foundation at some of their Theme Park developments around the country.

Of course the design has been criticised by the usual bunch of elitist know-all architects who are all blind to the critical excellence of the design. You can read the comments on Urban Realm here - absurd I know - but the interesting fact is that Gareth Hopkins has for some strange but generous reason stated that this is the work of Acanthus Architects, a firm that I have never heard of. I assume that this is a made-up name and that they are a figment of the imagination.

All in all, this is great news for Aberdeenshire, for Dr Donald Trump and for Gareth Hopkins whose future as a Theme Park designer is assured. I have put another gold star in my notebook against this project and will sleep happily tonight in the knowledge that there are more good things to come from this neck of the woods. 10/10!

PS A day later, and the Scotsman newspaper's article here is just great too - this guy Neil Baxter knows what he's talking about

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Triple Kirks for the chop! Aberdeen rejoices!

the Triple Kirks development by day
You know, I've been thunderstruck by some of the developments in the past few months across in the great city of Aberdeen. The spectacular God's Own Golf Course takes shape out at Menie, fine tuned by my hero Dr Donald Trump. Union Terrace Gardens is set to be flattened at last - or should I say filled up - but either way it will be an improvement over the rat filled slum that is there at the moment.
the Triple Kirks development by night
But one of the things that has really caught my attention is the proposal by one of the Aberdeen area's greatest ever entrepreneur's, Wee Stewartie Milne! An admirer recently alerted me to the Triple Kirks Development slap bang next to Union Terrace Gardens and I've shown an image of the proposal above - fantastic isn't it? This landmark development will offer 72,000 sq ft of the highest quality Grade A office accommodation right in the heart of Aberdeen City - amazing!
the design approach - that has Zaza Hadid Architects shaking in their TK Maxx trainers
The Triple Kirks were unique in Scotland in being three separate yet adjoining churches sharing a common steeple - the Wee Free and the Episcopalian churches couldn't afford their own steeples so they decided to use the Church of Scotland's one. Now fortunately the original buildings have deteriorated over the years and most were demolished some time ago. Sadly though, the steeple remains and is a blot on the landscape and an impediment to development in the hands of lesser people. But due to the sheer brilliance of Wee Stewartie Milne and his incredibly skilled team of world class architects led by, you guessed it...Halliday Fraser Munro..., an amazing composition of new buildings has been assembled around the old spire. Fantastic! With HFM leading this team, this is a roll out of talent that has world famous starchitects quaking in their boots - I'm reliably informed.

Now I'm sure you are all very wise and worldly people out there so you won't need to be told that when it comes to working on site, the church steeple will be history - demolished in an 'unfortunate accident' so don't think the development will be compromised by this miserable bit of old Aberdeen. Together with the huge retail development proposed for Union Terrace Gardens, this will drive Aberdeen forward and ahead of every other city in Europe. Everything Wee Stewartie Milne touches turns to gold, just like his longstanding involvement in Aberdeen Football Club which saw it just escape relegation last season. It is currently putting in a stellar performance at second bottom of the Scottish Premier League so this is an improvement by any measure.
Wee Stewartie Milne - Doctor of Technology
Personally I look forward to this development being implemented and my hearty congratulations go out to all those involved - a big tick and a gold star in my notebook!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Public art disease found in Coatbridge

the new Andy Scott artwork at Blair Bridge, Coatbridge - bound for the scrapyard I hope
You know, an admirer of mine sent me this nice wee photie of something terrible that has happened at Blair Bridge in Coatbridge next to the Monkland Canal. It's another piece of work by cliché artist Andy Scott, this time commemorating the work of renowned comic book writer Mark Millar, who grew up in the town. The six-metre high steel archway shows a character called Captain Coatbridge and two female superheroes - it was commissioned as part of on-going efforts to regenerate the canal but it looks really out of place to me against the old stonework of the canalside. I hope a lot of you are saying, "Oh no! Not another metal thing-me - please make it go away!"

Andy is probably making a good living producing all these bits of welded up steel - and goodness knows we all have to make a living somehow. I wrote earlier this year that one of his works, positioned on a roundabout, had been successfully destroyed by a drunk driver (fantastic wasn't it?) but unfortunately there is no word of others biting the dust. It's very sad for our nice wee country that we only seem to have one artist - he crops up in Cumbernauld, on the M8 at Baillieston, at Port Glasgow, almost everywhere, including Lomondgate! And because they are all done in the same galvanised finish, they look like bits of motorway signs that have been misplaced. Soon people will be saying that their towns are quite distinctive because they don't have a bit of scrap metal stuck in the middle of a roundabout.

Spare a thought though for poor Andy. I'm sure he is a creative sort of person so it must be really boring for him to be churning the same old stuff out all day long for every commission. So if I can give him a wee bit of advice it would be to stop doing these metal motorway signs and bits of horses and find another look for his stuff.

But in fact you will usually find that town planners are involved in commissioning public art so the blame can be laid at their door. I think this is a disgrace for a profession already on its knees as a result of incompetence by the goons in London and their inability to adopt the wisdom of the market economy in dealing with regeneration. All this public art stuff is a sideshow that the real movers and shakers in this country will avoid at all costs. So my advice to the RTPI Borg is to stop commissioning public art and get on with some real work.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Sensible SEPA - magnificent MAXIM

the totally magnificent and avant guard new home of SEPA at MAXIM business park
Hello friends, colleagues and enemies. I've decided to return to the fray for the next few months to bring you some more of my unique and insightful views on planning, architecture and the Scottish property industry. So much has happened since my last post but I won't go over much of that old ground. Instead I will pick some of the highlights of the year so far. You won't be surprised to hear that one of the most important events was the deal between SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and MAXIM, the totally magnificent business park which I had previously referred to as Eurocentral.

According to the Herald back in July, MAXIM signed SEPA as its anchor tenant after more than six months of talks. It's taken a long time to get to this point but that isn't surprising - a development so magnificent in its cutting edge design and avant-guardness that it hasn't even made it into the pages of most architectural magazines, won't sell out in the first week. That of course is the meaning of avant guard - so 'out there' that the multitude don't even know about it. And I can tell you now that most architectural critics are struggling to find cliches to describe it! It is the work of Keppies of course, a personal favourite of mine and one of Scotland's greatest box ticking and innovative companies, able to beat off any incomers when it comes to procurement, cheap developer-friendly design with an international feel and they are truly thought leaders in the world of greenbelt developments and pushing out the boundaries of the city into useless farm land.

Now SEPA have really nailed their colours to the mobile phone mast this time! The protector of Scotland's environment has chosen an out of town location with endless car parking and easy access to motorways for it's new premises. Remember that one of MAXIM's greatest selling points is that you can go there by car without any worries about congestion or parking! Staff can have barbeques in the woods at lunchtime and help to drive wildlife from land that would be better used for development. Saying no to so-called sustainable but outdated city centre locations by closing offices in East Kilbride and moving 350 workers from Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth is a major slap in the face for the long haired sandal-wearing hippies who favour public transport and other daft ideas. SEPA have risen considerably in my estimation and I'm sure have a great future. Let's hope that other organisations follow their good example.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Glasgow School of Art - some new thinking

Steven Holl's new building (right) makes the Mackintosh building look ancient, small and horrible
You know, sometimes the most obvious things in the world escape people because they are blinded by history, tradition and habit. Two of my fans wrote to me last week suggesting that I should write a review of the proposed new building for Glasgow School of Art. As you can imagine, I was delighted that my expert view on this matter was sought but at the same time, I was horrified to uncover the real truth of what is happening on Garterhill and the sloppy thinking that has dogged the project so far.
a view of the fantastic interior of Holl's building
So last night I settled down to write this post while listening to a cassette tape of The Lark Ascending by one of my favourite German composers, Ralph Von Williams - marvellous stuff! First of all some basics. The proposal will be constructed on the site of two wonderful buildings by Keppie Henderson and Partners - the Newbery Tower and the Foulis Building. I'm trying not to show bias here - as you all know, Keppies is an all time favourite of mine - but it is quite ridiculous to contemplate the demolition of these fine structures, especially when an older building across the street is apparently to be kept.

Now I've heard all about Mackintosh - in fact I always carry one of his raincoats in my briefcase - but he should not be regarded with any respect. After all he slunk off from Scotland to work in England for a bit, then went to France to do a bit of painting and decorating - so he was effectively a tax exile!
another view of Holl's big building with the old ruin in the background
The Art School needs more space - that seems clear. Doubtless they also need space for student parking and that sort of thing. I wonder if they have thought of moving to a greenfield site or perhaps a business park where there is plentiful parking? Probably not because they are wedded to that old wreck of a building on Garterhill. But such a plan would release their multiple sites in the area for more profitable uses and the dynamic Scottish property development industry would welcome such a proposal.
a sketch by Steven Holl showing the antiquated Art School on the left and his contemporary proposal on the right - fantastic!
Now in relation to the proposed new building I must say I like it! It has presence and it is strikingly contemporary and large, towering over its insignificant neighbour across the street but, and that is a big but, it is facing the wrong way! The obvious answer is to demolish the Mackintosh building, keep the far superior Keppie buildings and build the Stephen Hall building on the site of the old Art School. Job done - problem solved.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Enemies of Enterprise

Cameron and Cable attack planning - courtesy of
You know, I was trembling with excitement when I read the latest discussions about the planning system in England in Planning this week - apologies if you can't access this because you are not an expert planner like me! Down south, planning is regarded as being a major barrier to economic expansion. It's just what I have been saying for a few years now and of course, much of this free-range thinking has been adopted in Scotland for some time now with major developments like Edinburgh's Garden District getting the nod from the Scottish Government without a planning application even being submitted. Fantastic!

The Tory Vince Cable said, "I hear countless stories of perfectly reasonable developments being thwarted by bizarre planning rules. We want the standard answer to be yes - not no". Well actually the standard answer is yes or yes..subject to and sometimes no so that shows how much he knows. And on the same day, Cable also implied that the planning system was a major contributory factor to the recession down south. Nothing to do with the banks at all! Nothing to do with lack of borrowing opportunities! Just planning holding everything back. And last weekend while I was writing about MIPIM and wondering why my daffodils hadn't come up, David Cameron was talking about the "town hall officials who take forever with those planning decisions that can be make or break for a business" - they are among the "enemies of enterprise" who must be identified and destroyed.

Now you and I know this is just political posturing - but at the same time, the writing is on the wall for many of these enemies of enterprise - we see enough of them here in Auchterness! Let's think about the Enemies of Enterprise in Scotland - in fact, let's make a list:

  • local government officers who spend more time reading the Sun and drinking Irn Bru at their desks than dealing with planning applications
  • planning officials who refuse to take brown envelopes and holidays abroad as part of the Planning Gain agreements
  • development management staff who turn down invitations from developers to accompany them to lap dancing clubs
  • community activists who have issues around personal hygiene or who wear sandals and grey corduroy trousers
  • overweight women in brightly coloured cardigans who shout at developers during public meetings
  • noisy children carrying placards and dropping litter
  • anyone from Newton Mearns (the middle class slum near Glasgow)

These people represent a small proportion of the population yet they have a disproportionately negative effect on business, enterprise and property development - in fact they are clearly destroying the country. I have identified them - who will take them on?

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Scotland - no money for a good time at MIPIM

some of the fantastic attractions at MIPIM - courtesy of the Budapest Business Region website
You know, at this time of year when the sap is rising and a healthy young man's thoughts turn to property development (and other things), it is just as well that MIPIM 2011 is just round the corner. After a long hard winter of doing deals, flattening historic buildings, devastating greenbelt and building masses of breeding boxes for the plebs or shiny new business parks for the plutocracy, it's natural that the property development industry should look to shake the dust from its portfolios and head for the sun.
another fantastic attraction at MIPIM courtesy of Corporate Club International
Now for you ignoramuses out there, MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d'Immobilier) is the world's greatest trade show for international property development and takes place annually in Cannes, attracting almost 20,000 participants from almost 70 countries. In reality it is one big party! Of course I'm sure that some deals are done and doubtless some servant architects will make connections with new clients and hope that they win a big job. But for most it is allegedly about drink, drugs and sex.
yet another of the fantastic attractions at MIPIM - who wouldn't want to go?  Courtesy of Luxury Insider Magazine
There is an interesting article in the Sunday Herald today (not online) about Scotland's non-attendance at MIPIM this year. There will be no official representation by Government, public agencies like the beleaguered Scottish Enterprise or Councils - with the exception of Edinburgh who are going of course. Also some Scottish firms will definitely be there as the lure of those scantily clad Russian maidens plying their wares is too strong to keep young property folk in Scotland during a dull overcast March.
yet another of the fantastic attractions at MIPIM - who wouldn't want to go?  Courtesy of Luxury Insider Magazine
So perhaps the message has got through to public agencies about the alleged orgies and drunken capering at MIPIM. On one hand it is a national disgrace that Scotland is not represented on the Riviera. On the other hand, some say that it is not always easy to point to an instant return from such an event - well try telling that to the well known property executive who needed a course of injections when he came home or the prominent local government officer whose wife found some unusual female under-garments in his suitcase on returning home. I've never been to MIPIM unfortunately so I wouldn't know - but I would leap at the opportunity of course! Scottish Enterprise says that 'restricted budget availability' is the reason for their non-appearance. Maybe they are just not up to it anymore!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

An Unnecessary Rethink

Edinburgh Waterfront from the City of Edinburgh Council Report
You know, after the shambolic and inaccurate mess of my post last night I thought I would try to make amends by writing about an important study which has been brought to my attention by the amazing Bell and Scott's daily delivery of sector knowledge. Bell and Scott have one of the best doorways through which you can view the dynamic Scottish property development industry at work.

Today, they opened the door onto the Draft Area Development Framework for Edinburgh Waterfront and Leith, an area I had previously referred to as an epicentre of dynamic growth. This smouldering hotpot of development has been one of Scotland's development success stories and, like Glasgow Harbour, it is totally unique. The command that Forth Ports and Clydeport have exercised over their respective harbour areas is truly world class.

So it is quite remarkable that the City of Edinburgh Council, assisted by the highly secretive organisation known as A+DS (shortly to be wound up in all probability), the Prince's Foundation and others have decided to 'refresh' the plans for the Waterfront. The report states that, "The sites at the waterfront are among the most significant development opportunities in Europe. Unfortunately, some of the developments first approved and developed at the beginning of the 2,000s have failed to meet this expectation. As a consequence, it is evident that it will take considerably longer for development in the waterfront 'areas of change' at Leith, Newhaven and Granton to be fully realised. Also, some of the recent development models will no longer be desirable in the present financial climate." To my mind this is saying that the previous work has been a failure - how can that be? Incredible! So now they've decided to sit around with Prince Charles eating Duchy Originals, scribble up a few plans and write a big report. What for?
one of the meaningless plans from the report
Anyway one of the interesting things about this report is the language. You know, we expert planners are always keen to talk about strings of pearls, green fingers and the like. This time we have a beating heart, a Great Street and a Merchant City. In fact we have a number of beating hearts, presumably accompanied by a twinkle in the eye, cauliflower ears and a club foot though I haven't been able to find them yet. This is all meant to confuse the public of course because the last thing planners need is interference from the local community and certainly the development industry will be anxious to avoid having to deal with busybodies wearing sandals and brightly coloured cardigans. Not surprisingly though, news of this story in the Scotsman has caused an eruption of antagonism in the comments section which is well worth reading. If anyone seriously wonders why we planners like to avoid consultation just read this!

In my view, Edinburgh has made a big mistake in refreshing the plans for the waterfront areas. What can the Prince's Foundation possibly know that global design firms like RMJM and others don't know? RMJM have prepared highly regarded plans for their private sector masters and managed to ignore community wishes along the way - an excellent strategy that has borne fruit in Glasgow Harbour. This is a waste of public money and will lead nowhere.

For what it's worth, you can download the report from here.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Goodbye, Man in Motion

the dreadful Man in Motion sculpture
You know, my professional and personal lives have been so completely dismal over the past few weeks that I haven't had the energy to contribute anything to the Scottish Planning scene. I won't go into all of that for now as I'm determined to be positive. But just when I was feeling so down yesterday, I read the fantastic news that cliché artist Andy Scott's awful Man in Motion installation had been largely destroyed in a car accident. Isn't that great? By the way, I was very remiss in not crediting Delphwynd with taking the great wee photie on the right above - you can see more of his work here and thanks for letting me use it!

Now first of all, I hope no one was hurt in this incident. Police are still investigating so they haven't come out and said openly what everyone knows is the truth - that this was a deliberate piece of sabotage aimed at undermining the regeneration of Tullibody in Clakmannan- not the City of Dundee as I wrote earlier ( you see how stressed I am at the moment). I await confirmation of this with great interest and amusement. Of course it's ironic that Man in Motion should have been felled by a car - it just shows you that Clackmannan need to address the road safety agenda as well as all the other rubbish they spend money on.

I'll try to keep this brief because I'm still laughing. but I sincerely hope that this intervention was carried out deliberately by some nice wee middle class lady rather than by some drunken ned high on Buckfast in a stolen Vauxhall Nova. It's about time that good sensible people fought back at this patronising and ridiculous policy of providing Andy Scott with work whenever an area has been identified as a slum needing a good kick up the backside. See that rubbish Arria statue at Cumbernauld - it will be next. I hope it will be flattened by a thoughtful HGV driver.
the hideous Arria installation at Cumbernauld
The only cloud in this story is the prospect of Andy being brought in and paid a lot of money to repair the damage to his creation. Let sleeping sculptures lie I say. Down with public art!

And apologies to everyone for getting my geography so wrong - I am an idiot!

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Forfar Bridie versus proper food

a revolting Forfar Bridie served on its own
You know, there's a really juicy piece of news around in the welfare town of Forfar at the moment. I was alerted to this by my personal copy of Bell and Scott's sector review which arrived in my inbox at lunchtime. Apparently it's another case of a group of locals unwilling to bow to the inevitable and acknowledge that traditional ways of shopping are history. All this angst and hand wringing has been brought about because a multi-million-pound Asda superstore has been given the planning green light after town councillors found themselves out on a limb in opposing the development. So long old shops! Your time is up! Fantastic!!

The supermarket giant hailed approval for a store which they hope will create more than 250 jobs, bring in a £20 million-plus annual turnover and take the trade war to rival Tesco, which it has been claimed is scooping up more than 70% of Forfar's shopping spend. Well it won't create 250 jobs - that is just window dressing - but the principle of the survival of the fittest, the up and coming monumental battle between Tesco and Asda (our modern day giants of retail) and the destruction of old shops owned by old people selling unpalatable food is completely sound in my view. So the Forfar Bridie won't be featuring in Asda's plans. It too will be history and not before time. That's another box ticked!

But wait - there's more! Now Asda are a canny bunch of operators - and I'm very fond of their sausages - so when it came to planning gain, they got away with only £38,000 worth of landscaping and road improvements. Considering how much money they will make from the store it's got to be one of the best bargains so far in 2011. So much for the Council planners fighting for the best result for Forfar - they were maybe keen to get a job at Asda. After all, their own jobs will disappear soon.

A final point. I haven't seen the drawings for this proposal but I'm certain that it will be a thing of great beauty. A crisp metal-clad box glinting in the sunshine and sending out rays of retail goodwill to Forfar's destitute populace and extending further afield to the droves of English hippies living in black houses and old railway carriages throughout the miserable Angus countryside. Forfar will now jump straight from the 19th century to the 21st century - an amazing achievement. So a gold star and 9/10 points in my new notebook - plus a big tick.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Happy New Year!

a dead Christmas Tree
Happy New Year to all my thousands of readers and of course, each and every one of you is special! I hope you're ready for an exciting ride through the wonders of planning in Scotland.

I arrived back in the office on Wednesday 5th but by lunchtime, there was some unsettling gossip about things that I dare hardly think about. My own position here at Auchterness may be under review as a result of stringent cutbacks in public expenditure and there is talk of ‘sun-setting’ the entire operation. I can’t believe that this will happen as we are a critical component of the country’s public-private sector partnerships and widely known as ‘thought leaders’ in the field of regeneration and renewal. There is no need for anyone to be cast down or worry about our future - I give you my word on that, but I will of course keep you informed of developments.
the Burntisland Clock
A couple of things of a more jovial nature. Firstly, did you happen to see the mad story about the Burntisland Clock and the ludicrous goings on at Fife Council? One miserable local person complained about the noise of the town clock chimes so Fife Council removed the chimes. Crazy! Then about 200 people gathered in Burntisland the following evening to demonstrate against the removal of their clock chimes after 150 years. Then 1,100 signed a petition calling for the chimes to be restored. They even have a Facebook page - I've joined in the fun just for badness! It’s a great story about the minefield of local democracy in action and is perfect evidence of all the terrible things I’ve been saying about giving local people their say. Just don’t listen to them - that’s my advice! And certainly don't ask them in the first place!

Secondly, and as they used to say in Private Eye, I had to peel an onion when I received the sad news the other day that Planning magazine is moving to a fortnightly format - what a terrible thing to happen to the magazine nobody reads - and they're getting a new editor to help breathe some life into it. After the tears were flowing freely I started laughing of course as really this is a major setback for the goons in London. It’s just what you would expect to happen when they have a woman president - it wouldn’t have happened on a man’s watch would it? With any luck it will move to a monthly format then quietly die off - no one will care of course. It’s a profession without a future as long as the goons in London are in charge.