You know, I’m always pleased when one of my fans asks me to review a new development or comment on a controversial issue from the viewpoint of one of Scotland’s leading planners - that's me! A couple of people (thanks Phil) have been in touch about a development at Otago Lane in Glasgow and the overdue clearance of a number of slum properties near the banks of the River Kelvin.
To start at the beginning, it's obvious that developers will have had their eyes on this site for many years. Like the magnificent proposals by Clydeport further down the Kelvin which I’ve written about before, this is a perfect opportunity to create a Ribbon of Riverside Residences along the Kelvin connecting the fabulous and award winning Glasgow Harbour to the heart of the West End. It’s a logical move which is clearly supported by the City Council who recently swept aside objections and granted permission for the proposals (as has thankfully become the norm in Scotland). Who actually needs planning these days?
The proposal also includes the eradication of ’mixed uses’ - which are a nuisance for developers and residents - and their replacement by a single or mono-use. What could be better? The idea of mixed use was seized on and promoted by American Planner Jane Jacobs many years ago but now that she is dead, it can be placed in the dustbin of town planning theory joining townscape, local plans, regional planning and urban design as historical subjects.
Of course as a developer, you can’t make a move these days without encountering resistance from sandal-wearing hippies and selfish Bohemian snobs poking their noses into other people's business but the real threat comes from people living in the past. One of the objections to the Otago Lane development was the necessary and timely demolition of a secondhand bookshop run by a French couple called Voltaire and Rousseau. Absurd! Have these people never heard of Amazon? That’s what I mean about living in the past. Why would anyone in their right mind want to visit a slum clearance area to ferret about in piles of smelly books covered in rat droppings when they can just click online and get a nice new book in a lovely brown cardboard packet a day later?
The developer also played a Trump card in getting servile practice and journeyman architects Gareth Hopkins to prepare plans for the area - a move which has clearly succeeded. You will recall that this practice helped out Dr Donald Trump in masterplanning God’s Own Golf Course near Aberdeen so they are used to producing plans that flatten opposition. I would call them a very principled practice! They are not really designers of any consequence but are enablers - they’ve cornered the market in solutions for folk who want a problem solved in a hurry. It's a bit like unblocking drains - they are the Dyno-Rod of the development industry! I think this is an excellent niche activity for an otherwise boring architectural firm - more power to them!
The Council’s decision to approve this development is a hammer blow for the conservation lobby who will be sobbing into their Oxfam handkerchiefs and choking on their vegetarian quiches.It’s a completely justified salvo fired in the direction of the Enemies of Enterprise - and they’ve taken a direct hit!
My hearty congratulations to everyone involved in getting this marvellous project approved. I must admit that the design proposals are...let's say underwhelming and that Keppies would have been more able...especially compared to the Unite Student Housing block with its fabulous branch of Greggs just along the riverbank. Nevertheless I’m happy to give it a gold star and a huge 9/10 in my little notebook.