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.