Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Goodbye Planning Magazine!

The final moments of Planning
You know, anyone with a couple of brain cells could have seen this one coming. I received my own personal copy of Planning from the goons in London last week and it's the last one I will see - thank goodness!  I've only just stopped laughing - what a bunch of idiots!

Sixteen years ago, the RTPI decided to have its official journal published by an 'outside agency' - Haymarket.  Good idea!  It's the same with school meals isn't it? Glutinous lumps of junk food passed off as healthy fare!  And it's the same with toilets - at Auchterness we get 'external contractors' to come and clean them every night. A horrible job for poor wee Margo but she doesn't complain - she just pulls on her rubber gloves and gets on with it.

Now the RTPI and Haymarket, the publishers of Planning, have fallen out and the Journal is dead in the toilet.  Who cares?  I was once proud to receive the official journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute.  I remember how I used to place it on the outside of files when I walked about the office so that people could see that I was a planner - and respect me of course.  Now I am ashamed of it - ashamed to the point where I wish it arrived in a brown paper bag instead of a transparent one. But now I don't need to worry because Planning magazine is dead.

But wait! Is it really dead? The flyer says 'REGISTER NOW and get them FREE for the rest of 2013...'.  Sounds like desperation to me - who would want this terrible publication?  Haymarket and Richard Garlick think it is a runner - are they serious??? It is probably one of the worst 'professional' publications around, responsible for reducing town planning to the intellectual stump that it is today.  A weekly source of gossip and tittle-tattle - nothing more!  A fantasy world of  powerlessness and pointlessness in the face of The Enterprise! It sounds to me as if Richard Garlick is the one who has to put his rubber gloves on now and get his hands in the dark and bubbly!

Meanwhile the goons themselves will try to come up with their own Journal sometime next year. Laughable!  Who will care or read this?  Anyway we have our own lovely wee Scottish Planner publication up here and that is fine with me.  I hope to write an article for it soon.  It will be a winner!

My hearty congratulations to everyone who was involved with the RTPI in the decision sixteen years ago to hive off the Journal to an outside contractor.  It's certainly been a good decision - something to be proud of!  BTW (that's By The Way!) I hope you noticed my finest beech executive desk top in the lovely wee photie above, courtesy of Auchterness.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The public sector dog

The vicious dog that is Aberdeenshire Council
You know, sometimes you have to be careful with dogs.  Just when you think you have trained them properly they turn round and bite you.  Wee Dr Stewartie Milne found this out to the tune of £1,000,000 + last week when Aberdeenshire Council won a court case against the eminent Doctor's firm over a land dispute.

An appalling decision!  You can read about it here but I wouldn't bother. It's a minor matter for Dr Stewartie as he has riches beyond measure thanks to his intelligence and developer genes which he has in abundance.  Still it's a very poor show when the great unwashed in Woodhill House can put one over on the pocket genius. It's actually worse than it seems because reading between the lines, the Court of Session and the Supreme Court should have been in Dr Stewartie's pocket - but they were not.  These days you would expect the rich and wise developer to receive favourable treatment over the out-dated progress-defying Council barons with their fat and lazy staff who scoff Pot Noodles in the Council kitchens all day or go on 'site visits' to do their shopping during working hours.  Worrying.

But it gets worse.  Aberdeenshire Council have also been winning small battles against Dr Donald out at Menie where has has been instructed to deal with a number of 'issues' such as the piles of earth that he planned to use to bury local protesters in their scruffy black houses and railway carriage homes.
A typical Menie protester's home

 This is absolutely disgraceful!  I can't believe that Dr Donald hasn't another plan which will soon be revealed to all and I hope that this worrying trend within the dynamo of the Scottish economy does not become common place.  Dogs have their place of course - I used to have a Wee Scottie myself - but they should be kept in a shed and kicked hard once a week, just like Aberdeenshire Council.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Halliday Fraser Munro triumph again!

Halliday Fraser Munro (with Snøhetta) - New Maggie's Centre in Aberdeen
You know, I was absolutely delighted to see that Halliday Fraser Munro, one of the top architectural practices in Scotland - if not in the world - and certainly one of my all time favourites, have completed their new Maggie's Centre in Aberdeen.  Apparently they got this job in association with a Norwegian outfit called Snøhetta. For the ignorant among you, Snøhetta is a mountain in the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park in Norway.

Now it's fascinating to see the way this collaboration has turned out.  You can see the trademark style of Halliday Fraser Munro in the ordinary bits of the building - the bits that actually work - and I assume Snøhetta did the white snow-drift thing round the outside - well snow is all they know after all.  But it's silly isn't it? And it obscures the best bits of the building in my expert planner's view.  It should have been refused planning permission on this basis alone!  What's the point of having all these windows and then blocking the view with a big shapeless white thing that looks like a snow-drift?  It all seems a bit of a joke to me but I'm not going to push this as I'm well aware of the sensitivity attached to the provision of cancer care and the important role these buildings play.

I think Snøhetta should just have left all the design work to Halliday Fraser Munro.  It's as simple as that.  We would have ended up with a much better building.  Anyway, my hearty congratulations to Halliday Fraser Munro on this worthwhile facility - they've certainly shown Norwegian designers a thing or two.

Monday, 12 August 2013

My new suit

My wonderful new suit
You know, folk in their fifties (like me) have to keep themselves looking good if they are to have an impact on the exciting world of planning and property development.  Ageism is something they talk about a lot in women's magazines and it pains me to say that I've seen a lot of these recently in the dentist's waiting room. The dentist says that I must be grinding my teeth in my sleep but I replied that this happens all the time and it's deliberate - it's a good way of breaking up meetings before people fall asleep. But I'm straying from the point - if you sound good but don't look good you have a problem. If you look old and act old you are invisible and that isn't me!

I had a big presentation to make the other week about the fantastic work we are doing at Auchterness as well as my broader insights on property development in Scotland as seen from the perspective of the expert town planner.  You will all be familiar with my views on the important role played by rich and clever individuals who are bringing about a New Scottish Enlightenment and this was the main theme of my talk.

Anyway, I decided that instead of my usual suave Marks and Spencer's grey suit, blue shirt and silk tie (my Scottish Enterprise look) I would make a complete break with tradition.  I had always fancied a corduroy suit - I had one as a child in fact but it had short trousers - so I did some research.  I'm not going to tell you where I got it in case you all start following my trend but let's just say it was from a shop that is popular with the landed gentry.  Yes those wonderful, generous and intelligent people who own most of Scotland in case you are wondering.

My talk was a sensation!  The audience were so stunned by my eloquent and impassioned delivery that they didn't even ask any questions!  One thing though - in my excitement before the meeting I forgot to put on a tie!  Unforgivable!  I feel that I've let the side down a bit but all in all, the new suit was a big success!  Dave T looking good!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Totally Insane...Kamikaze

The excellent Marischal College Vandalism
You know, with all the fuss last week about Aberdeen City Council and their wee spat with Big Fat First Minister Alex Salmond, I got round to wondering what planners do these days.  More specifically, what do those folk in Aberdeen City Council Planning Department actually do - apart from trying to block development?

Most of you will be aware that our esteemed First Minister described the Council as, "...totally insane, indeed kamikaze", over their various efforts to block investment in the Granite City. The most recent and painful example of this is of course the tragic fate of Sir Ian Wood's Union Terrace Gardens project which would have been a Golden Opportunity for the Silver City to become an International Jewel in the Crown of Town Planning's Hall of Fame.  I'm still heartbroken about this but I managed to put aside the bitter memories of blubbering intae ma keyboard when the news was announced.  I went back to basics and navigated to the website of the Goons themselves - the Royal Town Planning Institute and their nice wee Scottish section.

Here I learned that RTPI Scotland aims to 'support people and organisations to create great places for people across Scotland'. They do this through:

  • leading thinking on how to create great places for people
  • supporting our Members to develop their skills
  • managing our knowledge and sharing it with Members and stakeholders
  • brokering dialogue and action amongst key influencers on planning issues
  • providing and demonstrating our value to Members
Now is it just me or is someone in the RTPI really struggling with the English language and basic grammar?  Since when did the gibberish, 'supporting our Members to develop their skills' pass as grammatically correct?  I may be old fashioned but I would have said 'supporting our members in developing their skills'.  Well actually I wouldn't have said anything like this at all but anyway let's just say that whoever wrote that isn't going to get a job at Auchterness!

Leaving that aside, it is clear that the RTPI is on the ball - 'leading thinking', 'great places', 'managing our knowledge', 'brokering dialogue' and 'providing and demonstrating our value to members' - and this all sounds tremendously exciting doesn't it?  These are pearls from someone who has an MBA of course.  I recognise this as I too received an MBA during time at Scottish Enterprise as did all the secretaries, wee lassies and cleaners - all part of the Scottish Enterprise culture of looking after their own.

But does this stream of ultimate wisdom, vast ambition and deep expertise percolate into the brains of planners in Aberdeen?  I doubt it.  It's time for a radical change in planning.  The RTPI is out of touch and have to do more than publish exciting words if they are to encourage The Enterprise!  It's time for timeless skills like my own to be recognised and for developers to be freed from the shackles of planning departments like Aberdeen City Council's.  In fact this applies to the whole country!  It is time for development control (or development management as it is now called) to be struck from the statute book and for these matters to be privatised forthwith.  No one cares anymore - it is over.

By the way, Christian Weir, 23, of Aberdeen, has been charged with malicious mischief in connection with applying graffiti to the walls of the Council HQ - I wish him well in court.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Union Terrace Gardens will go!

You know, last August I wrote at length about the demise of the wonderful proposals for Union Terrace Gardens in the hub of Scotland's economy which as you all know, is Aberdeen. The whole business left me emotionally scarred. I was completely unable to make my porridge in the morning.  Halfway through that article I predicted that Sir Ian Wood and Wee Dr Stewartie Milne would be back.  I thought privately that they would be supported by Dr Donald Trump of Menie. 

Well this week I received news that there have been stirrings in the undergrowth of that wasteland in the centre of Aberdeen.  No it wasn't unemployed hooligans fighting over a dirty wee lassie from Mastrick (because there are no unemployed folk in Aberdeen - though there are plenty of dirty wee lassies in Mastrick).  Nor was it local farmers fighting over a poor sheep that they hoped would be their new partner in life. It was the fantastic news that proposals for the site have been revived!

Now it isn't the Great Sir Ian Wood proposal from last year but wait for's a revival of the boring and defeated project by Britvic Gonsales for an arts complex dating back many years.  Well that's the way it is presented at the moment.  To quote the Architect's Journal writer Marino Donati, "According to BBC Scotland. Aberdeen City Council deputy leader Marie Boulton said the proposals, backed by Peacock Visual Arts, could be back on the table 'in some shape or form'."  To the seasoned expert planner this is code for 'large retail development with associated multi-storey car parking'.  Excellent!

I feel really good about this!  I feel handsome, potent and exciting! I feel the fecund promise of building tumescence on a brownfield site!  I sense the presence of greater beings!  Of rich people with superior intellects and ideas!  I am stimulated beyond measure!  I know that Sir Ian Wood is behind this one!  Wee Dr Stewartie Milne is across the railway at the Triple Kirks!  Sir Allan Henderson is reviving Union Street with his spit-and-sawdust bars and pound shops - augmented I am sure by some hanging baskets.  Union Terrace Gardens is completely surrounded!  I tell you - this scheme is going to win either a SURF Regeneration or an RTPI Planning Award and Wee Craig McLaren will be speeding up to Aberdeen from Edinburgh (First Class ScotRail of course) to perform origami on the feet of Sir Ian and Sir Allan. But Andy Milne from SURF might get there first.  Naturally the project will win on merit.

Don't worry about the look of this scheme - yes it is old hat and simply a cover for a much more exciting proposal, probably designed by Halliday Fraser Munro, which will have the planners revolving in their posh electric chairs in their new offices in Marischal College when it is unveiled.  It will feature all the exciting aspects of the original pre-competition proposal but with more parking and more retail. In other words - it will be much better.

It's a tremendous step forward for Aberdeen, Seagull Visual Arts and the RTPI.  I feel completely overcome.  It's the beginning of another outstanding success for the city and its ability to attract and nourish the genius mentality of rich folk.  There is no other city like this in the UK. All we need now is for Dr Donald Trump to get involved!  Fantastic! My hearty congratulations to everyone involved!

By the way, if anyone out there would like my completely unbiased assessment as an expert planner of a project dear to their hearts or perhaps something that is a source of deep concern please get in touch and I will try to oblige -  It would be published here of course. Let's help each other to make a better environment.