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!