Monday, 30 December 2013

The Boy's Christmas Present

The boy's Christmas present from 'Grandad'
You know, I'm too softhearted sometimes. I bought the boy I quodcopter for his Christmas although it wasn't the expensive one that he really wanted and though it has a video camera it wasn't the £300 thing that he desired. I wrapped it up carefully and with great pride delivered it through the usual intermediary to the 'family home' - about 30 minutes drive from here.

I thought he would be pleased but apparently he complained that it wasn't the expensive one - the ungrateful little swine.

But worse was to come. On Christmas Day they went to a local park, or green space as we expert planners say, to try it out. My beautiful wife and her young lover actually set aside their carnal activities for once to take the boy out - as a family so to speak. The boy and his 'father' lost control of the quadcopter on it's first flight - it rose high into the air and the wind carried it away. It crashed onto the main road next to the park and was run over by a taxi - it was reduced to smithereens. Even worse, the boy apparently threw a stone at the taxi in his rage - there wasn't really any damage but the matter was reported to the police by the taxi driver - who was a woman.

Now the boy is blaming me for what happened. Ach well - I really don't care. Ochone Ochone - as they say up the road. I'm sure he only wanted it to hover outside girls bedroom windows and take videos. We will become closer again when he is a bit older - he will maybe call me Dad again instead of Grandad. Actually to look on the positive side, I have escaped this difficult period of his upbringing and a fair punishment has been visited on his keepers - if they could take a bit of time out from the pleasures of the flesh to notice.

Anyway this is probably my last post of 2013. I'm happy to be back writing again and all the abuse, criticism and insults I get just make me stronger and more able to say what I really think in 2014. I hope you and yours all have a happy Hogmanay and I'll be back soon with my New Year message and some more fascinating news, opinion pieces and exciting insights into the world of the expert town planner. Oh and 'thought pieces' too! 

Cheeriebye for now.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The year of town centres

A typical old Scottish town centre - horribleYou know, 2013 has certainly been the year in which planners were forced to admit to their failures in dealing with town centres over the past 40 years or more. The Scottish Government decided to do something about it through the Sir Malcolm Fraser Commission but we will have to wait and see how effective the recommendations will be. As I understand it, their approach is based on the idea that town centres are valuable when in fact, they are not.

My take on this is that town centres are in a mess because people want to shop in nice places like the totally unique Braehead near Paisley or the equally unique Silverburn close to the slums of Pollok in Glasgow. In fact all these great shopping centres the length and breadth of the country are completely unique! It's the market that determines where people will shop - not planners.

But as the Scottish Government says, it's not all about retail - there are other problems too. Drive into any old town centre tomorrow and you will see groups of overweight women gossiping on street corners. Quite often, they take up so much room on the pavement that pensioners have to walk round them in the gutter while they cackle away. This is disgraceful and inconsiderate! I recently thought I saw six large women gossiping at a bus stop in Elgin when I was there with the boy recently - in fact there were only three of them - I need new glasses but I’m worried about what might be revealed once my sight is restored. You can have as many hanging baskets as you like but if there are fat people ruining the look of your town centre and stopping people getting to it easily it you will struggle with a regeneration agenda - mark my words. Of course it is also a health issue!

Another serious problem with some old town centres is middle-aged men wearing shorts and sandals. You may have seen this sort of thing in your own town. Often these folk use bicycles as a sort of disguise and pretend that they keep fit and are part of a healthy living agenda - when in fact they are perverts. Sandalism is one of the creeping threats to our town centres and while it was ignored in the Fraser Report, sooner or later it will have to be exposed as the menace that it is. People will avoid a town centre if too many men there appear to be dressed in an over-casual manner - it gives the impression that a town prefers having a carry-on to focusing on entrepreneurialism and serious business activity. Frankly if someone turned up for work at Auchterness wearing shorts and sandals his coat would be on a shaky nail. I would certainly ask him to think very carefully about his future. Well he might not be wearing a coat with sandals and shorts but you know what I mean.

Finally there is the problem of card and candle shops run by dreary middle-class housewives - often as a hobby. The presence of these emporia is a sure sign that a town centre is on its last legs but they also act as spiders' webs for schoolboys, fishermen and farmers who are drawn into them by the feminine charms of mature ladies and the smell of incest and candles.  Planning authorities need to do more to keep these shops under control or banish them completely. 

Anyway, I've shared some of my views on town centres with a few friends and colleagues who suggested I publish them here. I hope you find my expert planner views to be refreshing and radical compared to the normal planning 'thought piece' from the RTPI echo chamber.

Hope you are enjoying your holidays and not eating too much!  I'll bet you've been out at the sales and hopefully you will have gone to one of our wonderful new out-of-town centres instead of one of the stuffy old traditional town centre that planners mistakenly bother about.  Remember, if you are passing Auchterness please drop by and we can have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit - and of course a wee natter about town planning! 

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A present for an arsehole - me!

A Christmas Gift for an ArseholeYou know, I'm well known for my tolerance but some people just push me too far. And here we are - things have descended to a very low level, haven't they? I received this Christmas Gift of moist toilet wipes from someone in the office on Christmas Eve. It came with a card that read:

"Dear Dave,
I thought long and hard about what to get you in the Secret Santa 
and eventually decided that this was
perfect for you. 
It is meant for arseholes and you fit the bill perfectly. 
I hope you enjoy using these".

from Secret Santa

Outrageous! Can you imagine the scene as I opened the gift to loud laughter from some and sniggering from others as we tucked into mince pies and mulled wine in the Auchterness Board Room. It fair took the gloss off the day for me and to be honest, when I got home I spent some time blubberin' intae ma keyboard. People can be so cruel.

Now while I think this was meant to be some kind of joke, I have ordered a rigorous investigation and have demanded a full report into how this could have taken place and who was responsible. I hope office funds were not used in making this ridiculous purchase as there are very complex procurement regulations governing all such acquisitions. As far as I am aware, Auchterness has no purchasing arrangement with Tesco although of course we would be very happy to look at building a relationship with such a prestigious supplier, possibly including a sponsored roundabout.

I know this is the season of goodwill but there is a limit to the amount of abuse and criticism I can take. Regular readers will be familiar with the appalling insults I receive by email as well as the many generous offers of pills, friendship and sexual services from inappropriate individuals. I can cope with all this but to think that someone in Auchterness would stoop to the same level is very upsetting. I was so upset yesterday that I placed a mince pie on the kitchen floor and stamped on it repeatedly. It was just a nuisance clearing up the mess though.

Happy Boxing Day everyone - hope you are having a great time.

Getting it off my chest

the suburban slum called Polnoon
You know, I felt a lot better after my expose and attack on the folk behind the cynical Planner journal the other week. But it was short-lived. A few days later, I received my personal copy of the Scottish Planner. I know that what follows here is rather boring if you don't get the magazine so my apologies for this. There is something of perhaps broader interest coming tomorrow but I have to get this off my chest now!

Initially I was over the moon - it seemed to me that The Scottish Planner was everything that the other journals were not. Our own wee tartan planning magazine! Then I noticed the article on allotments which amounted to nothing less than a personal attack on me. My Planning Advice Note published only a few weeks ago had been completely ignored! Clearly an hysterical response to my reasoned article, apparently written by two women who inhabit these dreadful places and whose husbands - or male partners - probably wear shorts.

As I leafed through the magazine I felt the presence of a dried up oatcake in my mouth. Alistair MacDonald’s last ever article as Convenor, a veiled attack on wind farms in South Lanarkshire and then the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. My goodness but it seems that most of these awards have gone to buildings! Why? Is it because a planning department approved the planning applications for these developments? It's completely absurd! What possible other role could planners have played in these developments?

Then there’s a pointless article by the Head of Planning for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds discussing where housing developments should go. What’s it got to do with the RSPB? It’s none of their business! Housing should go where the market decides. This is mealy-mouthism taken to extremes. I condemn it!

It gets a lot worse on the next page where alleged former beauty queen and handbag expert Susie Stirling, Head of Plaicemaking and Design at the Scottish Government writes up some tosh about a place called Polnoon which aspires to be one of Scotland’s ‘Conservation Areas of Tomorrow’. Well don’t hold your breath for that. But it is a great piece of marketing mind you and it should be entered for an award on that basis alone. Well done to Mack and Mick for persevering with this crap.

Finally there is yet another article by the ubiquitous Nikola Miller. Honestly I had to give up after the second paragraph - I don't know whether to be dumbfounded at her youthful energy or horrified at the language of 'supporting, 'being confident in ourselves', 'celebrating success' and 'motivating presentations'. It all sounds like some Bible Belt preacher trying to get folk to go to church again.

Anyway, I knew you wouldn't expect me to be very cheerful over the Festive Season and that's the way it has turned out. I hope you had a lovely time on Christmas Day and that Santa was good to you.

I'll be back tomorrow with some news about a dreadful insult and gift I received for Christmas.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Shame and nausea

The shameful latest issue of The PlannerYou know, perhaps it is the approach of my seasonal depression or the arrival of another cynical issue of The Planner - the Business Monthly for Planning Professionals (Consultant Editor Huw Morris) that triggered it but I've been feeling a bit down this week. Quite honestly I blame The Planner with its nauseating stories of and by smug folk including President in the Wings, Big Cath Ransom.

The Planner devotes four self-serving pages to this insignificant person's life on the greasy pole - it's full of talk of  'performance appraisal', 'stringent checks', 'personal development plans' and 'taking ownership'. If I had been in Aberdeen I would have gone to Boots to see if they could give me something to take away the image in my head of a gravestone with 'RIP RTPI' written on it.  I settled for being sick in the car park.

Then someone has dragged Michael Heseltine - sorry Lord Heseltine - from the edge of his grave to talk about regeneration. There's a wee photie of Ed Balls and another of Planning Minister Nick Boles and two photographs of cows. That's it really. These good people are not hungry are they? The stench of elitism catches my throat hundreds of miles away here in Auchterness. I'm just grateful that we have decent well-intentioned folk up here like Sir Ian Wood, Dr Donald Trump and of course the man with the big pencil, John Halliday to make a real impression on our environment.
A senior member of the Royal Town Planning Institute
Once upon a time, town planning was considered to be a worthwhile activity and a respected profession. Now it is people orientated - but it isn't about communities or ordinary folk. It's about the people in the RTPI and the ridiculous idea that we planners want to hear about them. The Planner reflects this - it is full of strutting peacocks who slide up and down the greasy pole at the RTPI in their Marks and Spencer suits. I know it is hard to imagine a peacock sliding down a greasy pole in a suit - and I apologise for this - but while they are doing this, they are also bowing and scraping to folk with titles, money and power. They are busy feathering their own nests while the profession goes to cats and dogs.  The amount of brown-nosing in this rag is completely revolting.  You know, it gives me the dry boak to read about the selfish and pointless lives of the people in this journal.  

I was given custody of the boy for today - he was passed to me by an intermediary at 10:00 am. I know he can't be bothered with me any more - there was a time when we used to go to retail parks and enjoy every minute of it. Today he only wanted to talk about his Christmas present - he wants a Quadcopter and a GoPro Hero Video Camera.  I'm sure this isn't a good idea but I have said yes perhaps. He will be up to no good with it but anyway I decided that as a special treat for him we would drive to Elgin's magnificent Springfield Retail Park and see what we could find.
Elgin's fantastic new recycling centre where Huw ended up

But first, I insisted that we drove to Moray Council's new Civic Amenity Site or Recycling Centre with The Planner Journal and cast it into the general household refuse container - it's the best place for it. Huw and the gang have now nestled down with the rest of the rubbish there and I'm sure feel completely at home.

The trip to Springfield was a disaster and so embarrassing. The boy was apprehended by a security official at a store that will remain anonymous and told he was banned for attempted shoplifting last month. This is typical of him, his mother (my beautiful wife) and her young lover. We drove home in silence - but more of this later.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Goodbye Belvidere Hospital - and good riddance

The disgusting ruin of Belvidere Hospital
You know, I spent a lot of time yesterday on the Urban Realm website. I've sung its praises many times before. It's the go-to place for gossip and tittle-tattle about all things related to the marvellous Scottish property development industry and John Glenday, the Editor is one of the most incisive architectural critics around. Did you know that he once invited me to write for his august journal? Perhaps it was July - but anyway, I can't remember now. Sadly nothing came of it.

But to return to last night, my attention was drawn to a real story of our times - a short news summary about the demolition of a B Listed Ruin called Belvidere Hospital. It's pictured above. It's a slum building in a slum location - the East End of Glasgow where people's lives are so short they can't even finish paying the mortgage never mind worrying about rat infested old buildings on their doorstep. Just look at what they have to put up with! Developers Kier Homes were quite right to put a fence and barriers up round this sandstone wreck as it obviously is something that no one wants to visit or see - that was their first good move.

Their second good move was to employ RIAS Conservation Accredited Architects Hypostyle to demolish the building. As their website says, Hypostyle have no hangups about style, ideology or preconceived ideas. That is exactly what The Enterprise wants to hear from their servant architects. In the current economic climate, I would be surprised if they were not buried in work by developers the length and breadth of the country who want things sorted - from fighting gangs of sandal-wearing middle class busy-bodies to humiliating troublesome local authorities who are living in a past world. My little black book has a long list of architects who are prepared to bend right over to service their client's needs and I have added Hypostyle to this list. I also think that getting a Conservation Accredited Architect invoved in the demolition of a Listed Building is a very clever move. How can anyone object to that? Well plenty of people so it seems.

The comments section below this excellent article is full of ridiculous opinions from mealy-mouthed do-gooders who disagree with something that is actually nothing whatsoever to do with them. How dare they venture an opinion on this! This country is doomed if people like wonky, pablo and sven ever get their way. In my view Urban Realm should publish photographs of these anonymous commentators so that they can be exposed to proper scrutiny as Enemies of Enterprise.

My hearty congratulations go to Kier Homes and the excellent Hypostyle Architects for this important East End Initiative which in time will probably be seen as more significant than GEAR or a garage full of other delivery vehicles for regeneration.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Portobello Snobs clash with Subway

the new Subway shop in Portobello
The new Subway shop has met with resistance from Portobello residents.
From Edinburgh Evening News. Picture: Esme Allen
You know, I'm always fighting in support of big business in their quest to revolutionise our cities towns and villages. It is only money and power that can change things so why stand in the way of progress? Often I think the battle has been won and then something happens which reminds me that we must remain ever-vigilant. I was alarmed this week to read a dreadful tale about middle class do-gooders intent on keeping Portobello in the 20th century by trying to block the fast-food giant Subway from opening on High Street.

Now I must lay out my stall in the first place to show that I have no side or bias in this matter. I'm a Greggs man through and through. But while I love their pies and sausage rolls and enjoy a fly cemetery from time to time, I know that competition is absolutely essential to the health of High Streets. 
a lovely fly cemetery
A lovely wee fly cemetery - thanks to Mhairi Little Hands
So when I read a story about interfering residents and quivering local businesses branding Subway's dynamic business expansion as 'a disgrace' I have to say something.

Speaking as an expert town planner, the food industry is one of our greatest assets. I know plenty of people who work in it - from Wee Heather who wheels the tea trolley around at Auchterness to a friend of mine who actually moved from planning to retail. He was hungry for new skills so enrolled for an introductory course on the food industry. It was a sandwich course but he had an appetite for it - as would most breadwinners in his position. Married to an upper crust wife with a bun in the oven, he thought he could have his cake and eat it. And he was right - he has never looked back and brings home the bacon every month without fail.

Portobello is the kind of community you need to stay on the right side of or otherwise you’re doomed.” Isn't this just terrible? An appalling attitude to progress. “I’m worried (about) what they are doing to the building which is in a conservation area." Ah - pulling out the conservation area chestnut. There are plenty of good reasons why this move by Subway is an excellent one. Many people in Portobello will be poor or suffering from multiple deprivation - why deny them the opportunity to have some decent food at a good price? There is plenty of room outside the shop for seats and litter bins and there is even a pillar box into which some of the local neds can place their half-eaten foot long sandwiches. It's an excellent use for this derelict shop unit. It's close to bus stops and just across the road from the Police Station - and I'm sure the local constabulary will be important patrons of this excellent establishment.

In my book, this is all too typical of the bad attitudes to change that are wrecking our town centres across the country. Too many vested interests, a fear of competition and too many sandal-wearing middle class do-gooders. Most will probably have taken early retirement from local government and will see out their days trying to block The Enterprise. Our towns are full of them - they have nothing better to do with their time than sit around writing protest letters about litter and potholes and trying to prevent entrepreneurialism. Many of them will have been development control officers - or worse. It's time to take a stand against these folk - I hope you agree!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Wonderful Woodside

The work of genius - Halliday Fraser Munro at Woodside, Aberdeen
You know, last week when I was presenting my expert professional view on a range of boring town planning journals, my curiosity was aroused by a little snippet of information from Scott Leach, one of the Halliday Fraser Munro magicians who have brought so much to the fascinating world of town planning. I'm referring to architecture that leaves us all speechless with delight and great plans which rank amongst the finest strategies and town planning solutions across Scotland and Europe - or even the world!

Scott had made a passing reference to a 400 home development at Woodside in the great city of Aberdeen - the epicentre of dynamic growth in the Scottish economy and a place which extends a warm welcome to rich and clever people, especially if they are promoting fantastic money-making development proposals and trampling over sandal-wearing middle class do-gooders, conservationists and public sector layabouts. Well I looked up the Woodside proposal on the world wide web and was astounded by what I saw and read. It led to an evening of total exhaustion and fulfillment here at Auchterness.

Initially, there was disappointment. HFM hide their lights under a bushel - their website is simply a contact page. Clever because when you think about it, a firm like that doesn't want to expose itself to the first person that comes along. There has to be courtship and understanding first - trust and mutual appreciation and consent. John Halliday won't get his big pencil out of his trouser pocket for just anyone!

After a quick expert search of Google I discovered a file in PDF (that's Portable Document Format to the uninitiated) which promised to reveal all. I was quivering with excitement. At first I thought I had been led astray - this work was commissioned by the Aberdeen Lads Club among others. I didn't know that sort of thing existed in Aberdeen but you learn a little every day. Shocking!

I downloaded the document and printed it. As I bent over the printer, a bead of sweat dropped from my forehead, smudging some of the print. I wiped it away and caressed the pages as they slowly emerged. Then I carefully punched two holes so that I could file them in my big folder of important things and settled down with a cup of cocoa.

To be perfectly honest, I have never read anything so inspiring or seen drawings that made my heart beat so quickly - I thought I was having a seizure. Take this for example: "The character of old Aberdeen is derived from the scale, proportion and grouping of buildings and the spaces created by them". Wonderful and almost poetic! A 1:1 spatial ratio - that will bamboozle the numpties!

There's a lot of box ticking going on too - which is great! Shared spaces, a 'destination' village square, surface finishes, buildings defining streets, street hierarchy, planting areas in front of houses (a garden) and no footpaths. Challenging! I found myself sweating profusely as I read and re-read these wonderful pages. It's planning at the very cutting edge!

When it was all over I was completely exhausted. It was as if John Halliday's big pencil had penetrated the walls of my wee home here in Auchterness and spread a warm flow of architectural and planning goodness across my living room floor. It was a very special evening. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this project - it gets a gold star on the top right hand corner and 10/10 in my little black book.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Deluge of Journals

Two dreary Professional Planning magazinesYou know, last week I was completely bombarded by planning publications. Yet another issue of The Planner (the business monthly for Planning Professionals) from the Goons in Botox Street then an issue of Planning (the Independent Newspaper for Planning Professionals) from Richard Garlic's Haymarket Press. On the face of it you would think that both publications were aimed at me - as an expert planner and professional of many years standing - yet I felt very remote from both of them.

You do seriously wonder if there is enough planning trivia to go round and how much of these supposedly learned journals are actually just made up. Boring? Let's just say that I only realised I had fallen asleep when my mobile phone vibrated itself off my desk and into the wastepaper basket.
A Big Man - Huw Morris, Consultant Editor of the Goons Rag
The Goons rag, edited by the ever-serious looking and weighty Huw Morris starts off with 'convenient footballs', 'good kickings', 'heading off trouble at the pass' and 'penalty clauses' which 'reverberate for decades'. There is also a lot of forelock tugging and crawling to Westminster ministers, Lord this and Sir that. Honestly I'm struggling to deal with so many cliches and misplaced reverence and respect. Something is wrong with the RTPI in London - why do they pay so much attention to these snobs and Tories? But perhaps this is nothing new.

Let's have a quick look at Richard Garlic's boring little rag - Pickles here, Pickles there, Pickles almost everywhere, Heseltine, the Welsh Assembly (really!), Lady Clark, John Gummer, etc etc. What is this all about - why so much respect for clowns and gentry? It's just the same as Huw's rag. But wait! What's this? An article entitled, "What's it like to work for...?" featuring Savills, Barton Willmore, Nathaniel Lichfield and HALLIDAY FRASER MUNRO! Fantastic! I was enraptured and decided that I would take this fine publication to the executive toilet for a good read later.

Now as many of you know, I dream of being a famous and well respected planning consultant so getting the inside track on the firm that is steered so expertly by Big John Halliday is the event of the week - if not the month! I can imagine the internal CPD sessions at HFM when Big John brings out his big thick pencil with a rubber on the top and demonstrates how to tickle a Councillor's fancy with a few expert strokes! Honestly my double Twix bar and milky tea from Wee Heather's trolley never tasted so good! I was savouring the moment, anticipating my trip to the Thunderbox!

Well I final made it to the toilet - great!  The article is about one of Big John's most trusted lieutenants - a man called Scott Leach - he's a project manager for a 400 home development at Woodside, Aberdeen - I must check this out later as I'm sure it will be the masterpiece of all masterstrokes - straight from Big John's hand. Now as I suggested above, HFM have an internal CPD scheme which, 'aims to help staff contextualise their work as part of the wider process of development'. Doesn't that sound fantastic? Leach moved to HFM from Aberdeenshire Council a few years back and says that things are very different in the private sector. I can believe that! He is no longer walking through a treacle sludge of lazyness, indecision and frequent trips to the toilet to read the Daily Record! Quite wisely though, he gave nothing away about Big John or any of the other geniuses in the company. No matter though - I can imagine what a fantastically creative environment it is in there with plenty of contact with the rich clever people who have made Aberdeen a paradise of culture and entrepreneurialism.
The RTPI Centenary Lapel Badge

One sad note to end with. I received my subscription renewal from the RTPI this week. It included a beautiful little lapel badge featuring appropriately enough, a woman called Lex sitting on a fence. It's a clever logo isn't it? With a very appropriate message. Sadly my badge arrived broken in two - the pin had become detached from the badge so I will never be able to wear it. It's a cheap piece of trash from the RTPI - typical. I was distraught though - I would have been so proud to wear it walking down Union Street in Aberdeen, commanding the respect of all who saw me.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Grandhome - Fear of a Massive Suburb

An artist's impression of the Grandhome development
You know, I was scanning the pages of the Press and Journal the other day when I came across a fantastic article about plans for the biggest expansion of the Bridge of Don area of Aberdeen in decades. It's a complete smack in the face for sandal wearing middle class busy-bodies. They're too lazy to get a job on the rigs so all they can do is moan about the progress of the New Scottish Enlightenment. Happily there is plenty of enlightenment in the Aberdeen area which continues to be voted one of the best places to live in Scotland. This stimulating environment is based on rich clever people doing what they want and bullying Councils and their pathetic, interfering, lazy and incompetent planners into approving their great projects.

Anyway, this development by the Grandhome Trust took a major step forward last week as plans were lodged with the City Council for approval - and they will be approved of course. Of that there is no doubt.  The scheme aims to create a new community with 4,700 houses, schools, shops and health facilities as well as new land for business use.

It's suburban living with a new twist - the design is based on “walkable neighbourhoods”, providing easy access to shops and facilities. In my view as an expert planner, this is either a clever bargaining counter, a cynical piece of branding or a big mistake! People in Aberdeen don't like walking so why should folk living in Bridge of Don be any different? Walkable neighbourhoods have been doing the rounds for years but they will never catch on - especially in Aberdeen!

Predictably, the local populace have raised concerns that the development could lead to “mayhem” on the already heavily congested Parkway as farmers and their sheep look for new grazing land.

You can read about the fantastic suburb here. It's great the way these developers create a lovely cuddly feeling around their proposals....planned and designed by a team of community development experts and leading Scottish practitioners. Really? I've heard of Fairhurst but that's it. No sign of Keppies or Halliday Fraser Munro at all! Apparently thay have all been working closely with Aberdeen City, national agencies and other stakeholders to ensure the delivery of the masterplan. I can imagine that the Grandhome developers are laughing up their sleeves at the ineptitude of all of the above mentioned public bodies.

For me, this Massive Suburb has all the characteristics of the New Age of Scottish projects in which rich people roll over local communities and their objections, vanquish public sector impediments and obliterate farmers to create amazing new developments and generate a great deal of money. It's straight out of the Donald Trump, Sir Ian Wood and Ewan Jamieson school of planning. It's Glasgow Harbour with Sheep! The Grandhome Trust folk are apparently landed gentry so they can do whatever they like- that's the way it has always been. It's the correct and only way! The good folk who will buy homes and drive about in the new suburb can tug their forelocks and bow and scrape when they see the Grandhome Family and their Estate Managers passing by. It's part of the sales pitch.

I think this development is an amazing and positive step towards driving progress in the suburbs of the greatest city in Scotland. It gets a gold star and 10/10 in my little black book. My hearty congratulations to everyone involved! I look forward to seeing it built.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The mirage of Washington Exchange

Washington ExchangeYou know, I was down in Glasgow during the week at another of these important meetings where I find it quite hard to stay awake. Dreary women droning on about KPIs, picking their noses then ferreting about in the plates of sandwiches and biscuits. Disgusting! One hatchet-faced harridan stared at me for most of the meeting - perhaps it was my green corduroy suit and my purple shirt. By early afternoon I was anxious to leave and made my excuses. I had an appointment with something wonderful.

I rushed down Hope Street and crossed Argyle Street heading for the magnificent International Financial Services District or IFSD as we planners call it. It's a part of the city that used to be a slum - like everywhere else - but has stepped up to the plate in recent years and provides many of the riches that are typical of a Scottish Enterprise led development. This isn't surprising since almost all of the country's thought leaders have worked for SE over the years - I know I have.

Anyway, one of my readers recently pointed me in the direction of a fabulous new development called Washington Exchange - a name redolent wth profit, exclusiveness, success and rich clever people. Sir Ewen Jamieson of Clydeport has his offices near there where he can oversee all the goings on in the River Clyde as huge liners tie up and smaller vessels potter happily around them - Sir Ewen of course is the power behind Glasgow Harbour, one of my all-time favourite developments, and he is truly one of the world's most gifted, cultured and intelligent people.

Now while Aberdeen is very much the economic and cultural capital of Scotland it's important that other places such as the slums of Glasgow get a slice of the cake. So when I saw the photies of this development on Urban Realm I was delighted for the city. I don't know who the architects were but this is something that has Keppies name written all over it or perhaps Halliday Fraser Munro. It wouldn't surprise me if Big John had had his pencil out and dashed off a quick one on the riverbank.
Washington Exchange
However I am disappointed to say that I couldn't find the new development. I asked around and showed some Buckfast Boys the photies from Urban Realm but they said it was just a drawing. Slowly it dawned on me that what I was looking at were the most wonderful and realistic artist's impressions I have ever seen in my life. I was completely taken in by their incredible accuracy and attention to detail.

I felt such a fool as I wandered disconsolately along the river bank with my shoes covered in dog mess. I threw the drawings into a litter bin that was overflowing with ginger cans and juice bottles and walked slowly back to Queen Street Station. You see, even an expert planner can be taken in by a pretty picture. I still wish to congratulate the movers and players, stakeholders and client account executives, artists and quantity surveyors who created this gem. It gets a silver star in my little black book and the sooner it is built the better.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Allotments are wrong

a typical allotment - or residential development site
You know, it's been some time since I published one of my insightful advice notes on planning matters. My fans will be familiar with my excellent posts on Trees and Town Planning followed up by other carefully crafted notes on Hotels and then Wind Farms. Today I've chosen to write about allotments.

I read this week that people can wait for a long time to get a Council allotment -perhaps nine years. I'm surprised that people care about this because allotments should actually be banned. I've always associated them with a deep seated perversion that afflicts both men and women - and it affects animals too! When colleagues mention allotments I mark them down in their annual assessments or make negative comments in the margins of my little black book. That may seem harsh but I am simple looking after their best interests.
a goat

Take for example the sad case of a young man back in 2002 who was having sex with a goat on an allotment in Bridlington, somewhere in England. The court heard that the man was seen by an elderly gentleman walking with his grandson. The goat lover hid but then backed into view again, with his trousers round his ankles and a tight grip on the animal. He pleaded guilty to buggery and it was said that the goat had suffered distress during the assault, which went on for up to 10 minutes. You can find a full report here. Clearly the presence of the allotment opened his mind to the disgusting possibilities that subsequently eventuated.

This is typical of the sort of thing that goes on in allotments. Just back in September, and also in England, a Weymouth man was found guilty of indecency with a young boy in his allotment shed on several occasions between 1975 and 1992. He invited them into his shed to look at 'girly magazines' and then one thing led to another. Distressing for everyone involved - including the police, judge and jury who had to listen to this tale of woe. Again, the presence of an allotment led this man into this unfortunate behaviour.
a typical allotment with some furry friends

In Darlington - also in England - Council chiefs pledged to investigate after allotments were swamped by an infestation of rats. A nearby resident, who did not want to be named, added: “Just days ago, I found a dead rat in my street. I have lived here ten years and never seen one before. The fact that there now seems to be hundreds, potentially thousands, of rats, just a stone’s throw from my front door, is worrying.” Quite so but again, this is typical of the sorts of problems that allotments can bring and planners need to be well aware of these.

You know, planners are guilty of encouraging allotments and seeing them as part of some sort of beneficial green, sustainable, food-growing, climate change, middle class sandal-wearing related concept. Rubbish! An allotment is a breeding ground for perverts, rats, head lice and other problems that we can all live without.  It's a place where fat women in bright clothes gather to gossip and eat homemade bread.  Husbands disappear from their wives and homes to sit in sheds for hours on end and this undermines the glue of the family and society as a whole. Let's just ban allotments and be done with it. In any case, they usually represent excellent development sites and should be handed over to volume housebuilders immediately.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Those Mad Staring Eyes

Convenor MacDonald of the RTPI Scotland
Convenor MacDonald of the RTPI Scotland

You know, when I received my own personal copy of the Scottish Planner this morning it was such a relief! No pictures of fat planners greasing the system in England and Wales - just solid nuggets of information that we can all find useful. If you read this issue carefully you too can become an expert planner - like me.

Well - where can I start? The issue is prefaced by an Editorial from our own wee Nikola Miller - a girl who knows how to cliche like the best of us and who can strangle the English language in a couple of paragraphs. Opposite Nikola's editorial 'thought piece' is the terrifying image of our current Convenor Alistair MacDonald heading up a great commentary on the world of planning as viewed from the top of the Forth Bridge. Those Mad Staring Eyes have you turning the page very quickly but if you do that, those Mad Staring Eyes appear again on the next page too! It's Hammer Horror stuff but let's move on.

Next up we have an article by Sarah McIntosh on her disappearing front garden. I've heard of Brazilians but this is ridiculous - anyway, she is waxing lyrical on the subject and it's definitely worth a read!

But for me the highlight of this issue has to be the article by Michael Wastewater from Fife Council on Planning for Energy. I was gurgling with pleasure as I read it and I have to admit that he is a fountain of ideas and certainly worth a plug. It has to be said that his words flow freely but his ambitions for Fife as the Centre of Excellence for the renewables industry will certainly put the wind up some people. Perhaps the idea that Methil could become something other than a hopeless dump at the edge of civilisation is rather far-fetched but we planners have to hitch our wagon to a star sometimes - even if that star turns out to be a black hole.

All in all this is a great issue of our Journal. It is full of unlocking, shaping, delivering, focusing, contributing, ensuring, expanding and recognising one-size-fits-all approaches to a range of issues close to all our hearts. To have so many breathtaking thought pieces gathered together in just twenty pages is a serious bit of one-upmanship that will hit the Goons in London right between the eyes. Botox Street has nothing on Atholl Crescent - that's the way it is!

My hearty congratulations go out to all those who contributed to this issue. I'm sure the Mad Staring Eyes of the Convenor have electrified and guided your joint performance. I have placed a gold star on my copy and marked it 9/10 in my little black book. Well done everyone!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Fat Planners and their new Journal

Fat Planners at large
Fat Planners at large
You know, I was in the executive toilet the other day looking through the piles of discarded newspapers and product journals next to the throne and guess what I came across? That's right - 'The Planner - The Business Monthly for Planning Professionals', October 2013. It's the new version of the old Planning magazine that ceased publication a couple of months back as no one was reading it.

The Fat Boys' Magazine

The new Journal is very glossy and runs to about sixty pages in length. The first thing that struck me was that it is full of fat people. Grey fat middle aged men to be precise with cheap suits, shirts and ties - this is the face of planning in 2013. There isn't a cheerful green corduroy suit in sight - like mine!  There are many photies of big men who don't let the pangs of hunger go unanswered.  Even the President of the RTPI himself!  I suppose he has to go to a lot of dinners with other fat people so he's caught in a vicious expanding waistline syndrome. Actually I thought Wee Craigie McLaren was the RTPI President but I'm obviously completely wrong - he just isn't fat enough.

There are only two very brief mentions of Scotland in the new Journal - a passing reference to a tidal turbine project in the Pentland Firth and a nice we feature by our own wee Nikola Miller. That's it! The rest is all about England and Wales, pictures of George Osborne and comment and opinion from creatures like Colin Haystack - a previous leader of the goons - and talk of 'Our Nation'. It seems Scotland is independent already - or just ignored because we have our own splendid journal in The Scottish Planner? Who knows?

I wasn't impressed with this publication. It is full of self-serving people who do nothing but give planning a bad name. No wonder people hate planners. Fat men in suits. Full of themselves and full of food.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

George Square isn't so bad!

The magnificent George Square in Glasgow
You know, I was down in Glasgow this week at a very important meeting with some of the country's other though-leaders. I travelled down on one of Scotrail's finest diesel trains freshly painted in our nation's new livery with the Saltire prominent at the front and back. I thought a lot about the days when trains and their engines had good names like The Talisman pulled by Sir Nigel Gresley - much better than the 06:50 to Glasgow Queen Street with BBC Scotland 50 Years on the side or whatever it said. That's progress for you!

Anyway I digress. After my meeting, during which I must admit I fell asleep as the agenda moved as slowly as a farmer's wife on Union Street, I had some time to kill. It was a nice day so I went to George Square, bought a pie in Greggs and settled down in the sunshine.

Now I've been careful to restrain myself on the subject of George Square as it has been mired in all sorts of legal goings-on concerning the abortive competition, deplorable events in a car park at night while the boyfriend was at home cooking the mince and tatties and Council staff getting all worked up too. Honestly it would make a great television drama. My take on all of this is that none of the designs was up to much. So now the Council have embarked on this new initiative - they've implemented some temporary works for the benefit of all the foreign types arriving next year for the Commonwealth Games.

As I sat there in the sun composing my thoughts, some of the gravy from my pie ran up my sleave. I was so angry as this meant I would have to keep my jacket on in the train in case people saw the stains and thought I was disturbed. Anyway, there were many people in the Square taking photographs, eating their lunch and feeding the pigeons. Others were happily dropping litter and a group of idiots were trying to play football - running over the new flower beds. It was a happy scene - nice seats, some lovely green grass and a lovely grey surface - classy - and thoughtful. Next year most people in the Square will be drunk and in need of places to lie down so the grass is ideal. There were also lots of fat girls around which is so typically Glasgow - most were on the fizzy drinks or picking their noses.

I suppose this is what some planners call a Plaice - it's a sort of pretentious way of describing something when you can't think of another name for it. It's a trick that we planners get up to sometimes and it is recommended by the Scottish Government who have produced guidance on Plaicemaking - believe it or not! It's a bit of an industry in this country - a bunch of attention seeking folk decide that they will tell everyone else what is completely obvious. People who know these things don't need this sort of advise and the rest aren't interested in adopting it anyway. But so it goes on.

I'm sure the fat burds and footballing neds in George Square are grateful for these changes. Judging from the papers, a lot of people seem to like it - of course these are just the opinions of the great unwashed. You might have expected an expert planner's view to be different but it isn't - I like it and congratulate everyone involved in this carefully thought out and modest project. Let's leave the chattering middle classes to criticise and fester over minor design issues. In truth the biggest mistake the Council made was not seeing the Square as a potential development site - now that would have made a big difference!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The dirt on the streets

Strictly for the birds - Castle Square, Stranraer
Strictly for the birds

You know, planners talk a lot about streets these days instead of talking about development. They talk a lot about places instead of buildings. Even the Scottish Government talks about Designing Places and Design Streets. Rubbish! As an expert planner, I can say that this is wrong headed and will lead nowhere. But most planners like spending money on daft projects so they endlessly discuss how to do them and puff themselves up in the process. It's a burden on the tax payer and an extravagance we can all live without.

Take Stranraer for instance. Now like the rest of the world, I have never been there and can't think of any reason to go. Yet I noticed in the office toilet yesterday that the current issue of Urban Design Quarterly - which is a sort of backward looking comic for numptie planners - carries a long and boring article about the vast sum that has been spent on the streets of this miserable town on the edge of civilisation.

I'm not against a bit of public art. A nice wee feature like a big wooden frog or a dog made out of an old car door can fairly create a talking point in a slum area. But what has been done there is very poor and the description of the work is surely heading for Pseud's Corner - "this project is a series of elements that work together to create a cohesibe space that has a strong identity and affiliation with the area".  You have to laugh don't you - except I feel like crying out loud for my profession. It seems that one local cafe might have benefitted from this work.  But really no one cares about this - just look at the wee photie below - the good folk of Stranraer are shopping! There is only one old guy and a couple of neds sitting in this new landscaped thing.
Stranraer - No one cares - too busy shopping to bother
No one cares - too busy shopping to bother

There's also a bit of what we planners call shared space going on too. That's when someone makes a pattern in the road so that drivers slow down to look at it. It's a great way of spending a lot of money that is after all coming out of your pocket and mine.
Stranraer - shared surface
A driver stops to look at the marks on the road

Depressingly the project has won a couple of awards which really says it all.  If this is really the best that planners can do in Scotland then there is little hope. As I have suggested many times before, planning is facing a crisis as it becomes increasingly irrelevant. This work in Stranraer doen't help. Where's the retail? I cannot award any marks or stars in my little black book to this waste of public funds.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Great happenings at Dunblane

Former bus conductress Ann Gloag OBE
You know, I was delighted to read the other day that Dunblane has been recognised by developers as a suitable case for treatment and an opportunity area for enormous swathes of profit-making projects that will expand the settlement over former agricultural land.  Leading the charge to move Dunblane into the 21st Century is the redoubtable Ann Gloag OBE, one of Scotland's greatest businesswomen.
development sites at Dunblane

Speaking as an expert planner, the principal development sites at Striling Road and Hillside, and at Anchorscross seem to be entirely natural enlergements of Dunblane. It's a bigger building envelope of course but it contains a fabulous letter of intent for hungry housebuilders and others who are ready to step up to the plate of profit.
Major development opportunity off Strathmore Avenue
The site at Anchorscross is an absolute gem. It has a great view of the road to Aberdeen which is incredibly important and presents an opportunity to bring development closer to the lovely Stirlingshire landscape which is currently too far away for people with visual impairments to see properly. I should say that it will have great views once a considerable number of trees have been felled but this won't be a problem - this will also make the site more visible which is a major bonus. You can imagine in future years, the happy residents of the Anchorscross Estate waving to the traffic on the Aberdeen road providing much needed interaction between drivers and local community.

I haven't seen any artist's impressions of the Anchorscross development but I'm sure it wil be excellent in every way. In any case, hardly anything is refused planning permission these days as developers go into the final phases of their battle with local authority planners - who are now on the back foot as they try to answer legitimate claims that they have been throttling the UK economy and are the enemies of enterprise.
The Stirling Road and Hillside development - Fabulous!

The development at Stirling Road and Hillside is a splendid roll-out of all the best things that the dynamic property development industry can offer - a new supermarket, housing, community facilities, public amenity space, public services use and associated works. It's a well intentioned development that contains so much for the people of Dunblane.

Typically the people of Dunblane and especially people who will be living next to the new developments are unable to see the benefits of change as they are too mired in their selfish bourgeois me-first attitudes, filling their wine refrigerators and polishing their BMWs. It's a great shame that they cannot see the light.

I urge the local community to accept these fabulous developments and I congratulate everyone involved in these projects - a gold star in my little black book.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Reaching out

The guy at the front right is my son's role model
You know, I don't often reach out to people on personal matters but I must admit that I'm humiliated tonight. The boy is in serious trouble at school and my beautiful wife and her young lover don't seem to be able to help.

I saw the boy a couple of weeks ago and I was uneasy to say the least - well horrified actually. Back in August of last year I feared that he was turning into a hooligan, a Ned and a future member of the Tory party. He told me that his role model is the lead character in the film Neds - many of you will have seen it. He has also been on the Buckfast with his mates.  Today he phoned me up at work to boast about vandalising the school toilets - pulling the sinks off the walls and causing mayhem. He's proud of it! It hasn't dawned on him that it is wrong.  I can't repeat how he described me but it involved one of the four letter words that you sometimes find in the comments here. Preceded by the word 'old' of course.
A young hooligan drinks Buckfast - courtesy Daily Telegraph and PA

Apparently the boy hasn't been at school for over a week.  A parent of one of his friends went round to the house to find out what was happening and my wife answered the door. She was still in her dressing gown at 4.15 in the afternoon, smelling of drink and she had a fag hanging out of her mouth. Her young lover was there as well - shouting from the kitchen and telling her not to answer the door. I'm lost for words - last thing I knew she didn't smoke and only took a wee sherry on our birthdays or at Christmas when we used to play Scrabble after watching the Queen.

I will bring you an update soon but it seems that while my professional life as an expert planner and sought-after commentator on property development in Scotland is reaching new heights of respect and esteem, my personal life is falling to pieces. Sorry about this outburst and goodnight.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Green Light for St Nicholas House

The fantastic redevelopment of St Nicholas House, Aberdeen
You know, I'm almost exhausted after my multiple reports to you over the past few weeks. After this one, I really will have to sit down in the peace and tranquility of my lovely wee garden and take some time out with my brassicas.

I wrote to you recently about Sir John Halliday and his plans for the eradication of Union Terrace Gardens from the map of Aberdeen.  This is simply a wonderful project which showcases what can happen when Council planners are not involved in projects. Sir John's big pencil was guided on that occasion by the firm and experienced hand of an older man - none other than one of my long standing heroes Sir Ian Wood - and it is a triumph.  When I learned that Halliday Fraser Munro were also involved in the St Nicholas House site I realised that it actually might be possible for cities once again to be designed by one great architect or planner. It's a throwback to the days of Sir Patrick Abercrombie and others of his ilk and a smack in the face for the parasites who promote public consultation or even worse, the folk who try to get the great unwashed to contribute their ideas to projects that have already been designed. What does a hairy-arsed fisherman know about planning anyway?  Much more than his wife I'm sure!

Anyway, here's my take on the project from the expert planner's point of view. It's what we call a mixed use development featuring offices, a boutique hotel, cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as creating a significant amount of public space and pedestrianising Broad Street. That's at least three boxes ticked in one sentence! Fantastic!  There are also plans to create a garden area which will be known as Marischal Square - that's another box ticked to keep the Green idiots happy.  It's a ten-storey development so it will stand out proudly from surrounding traditional buildings of little merit - they will be demolished in due course. It's a golden addition to the Silver City!

Council leader Councillor Barney Crockett said: “The decision to appoint Muse as the preferred bidder for the site puts us in a strong position to not only press on with regenerating the city centre, but also to reap both the short and long-term benefits of the scheme. It’s an historic decision by the council and it’s a great one for Aberdeen." Absolutely! This is the language of success and confidence - I recognise it and I hope you do too.

Aberdeen must be one of the easiest places to develop in Scotland at the moment.  The Council wisely allows anything to be built although in this case residents should have no fear as Sir John's big pencil expertly penetrates the gap left by the old Council HQ, producing a degree of ecstasy hitherto unknown to the local population. It is likely that his silver tongue will also induce great pleasure as he describes his erections to the public. I'm sure there will be a token piece of public consultation - possibly in the form of a pantomime event held around Christmas - but this will be meaningless. It's another full speed ahead job for Halliday Fraser Munro and my hearty congratulations go out to everyone involved. Simply a great project for a great city!