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.


Deal said...

Good post. Keep it up.

Dave Thompson said...

Hello there Deal!

Thanks for joining the discussion and great that you have contributed.

Yours in planning

Dave T