Monday, 29 December 2014

Help for one of Scotland's Nothing-Towns

Before and after - Fresco of Jesus in Borja
Before and after - Fresco of Jesus in Borja
by Cecilia Giménez

You know, one of my greatest and longest serving fans sent me a wonderful story last week about a wee town in Spain. Entitled 'Struggling town gets tourism boost from art restoration cock-up', the article describes how Borja, a nothing-town near Zaragoza, became a magnet for thousands of curious tourists eager to see the handiwork of the restoration artist Cecilia Giménez in resurrecting the local economy by 'vandalising' a Fresco of Jesus. Incidentally, Borja is just down the road from Pamplona, the town which gave its name to the famous holidaymakers song Una Pamplona Blanca.

Anyway I digress. Her well intentioned work, which you can see above, is to my eye quite stunning. It seems to literally blur the boundaries between figurative and abstract painting! It has brought about a quiet revolution in the town's visitor numbers - and fortunes. So what has worked for the nothing-town of Borja could perhaps work in our lovely wee Scotland too.
the centre of Irvine
the centre of Irvine

When I read about Borja I immediately thought of one of Scotland's nothing-towns - Irvine. I've never been there but a colleague lived there for a few years as she clambered up the greasy pole to planning respectability here at Auchterness. She often talked about the town, likening it to a merger of Motherwell and Cumbernauld - but by the sea. Three bad things wrapped into one. In other words it is what we expert planners would call a dump.

Now I gather from recent canteen chat that the good burgers of North Ayrshire Council have been trying to turn around the fortunes of the town. To quote, they intend to, "collectively identify and build on Irvine’s economic strengths and build a 'whole town' appeal that promotes Irvine’s Clyde coast location, its connections to Glasgow and its quality of life attributes, to offer a successful, vibrant town offer". This is laughable cliché planning - a vacuous and cynical exercise! I had a quick look at the Draft Strategy which has been out for consultation - a big mistake in my view and not even a properly accessible document - and it is full of ideas like an 'Urban Dressing Programme', 'Quality Plaice Building', 'Promoting an Aspirational Plaice' and 'Linking-up Town Centre to Secure Added Value'.

I'm guessing that whoever produced this document was doubled up laughing as they wrote it. It's like the result of one of these games where you have columns of random words and you join them together blindfold. We have done this at Auchterness in the past so I hesitate to dismiss it as a way of filling up a report - it's a useful and valuable exercise in the right circumstances. Of course it has been issued to consultation which must mean that the Council like it! Well as an expert planner I can tell them right away that it won't work - it won't make any difference at all.

Here's my idea! Why doesn't the Council simply admit that the town is a dump and market it on that basis? Some of the components could include:
  • not picking up litter or emptying litter bins - ok little change here but...
  • an advertising campaign which says that the Scottish Maritime Museum is the most boring museum in Scotland - it's like going to a zoo only to find that all the animals are dead!
  • demolishing the Magnum Centre - oh wait...
  • publishing an inaccurate train timetable to frustrate visitors
  • even more nasty and unpleasant public art
  • a town of empty shops - folk will be surprised when they find occupied shops
  • completely random clamping of cars in public car parks
  • announcing that the Big Idea has reopened and getting some good publicity over the outcry
  • introducing an entry fee at all entrance points to the town

That's just a start but you can see how this could mirror the success of Borja in moving from nothing-town to regional success story. I'm happy to advise North Ayrshire Council as a paid consultant in this matter.

Anyway, sorry I haven't been able to write more lately. Hope you all had a great Christmas and all the best for Hogmanay. Cheeriebye for now from Auchterness – have a good one!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Keppies are back!

the ill-judged West Dunbartonshire Council HQ proposal
 the ill-judged West Dunbartonshire Council HQ proposal

You know, I've been so taken with the fantastic world-leading architecture and planning of Halliday Fraser Munro over the past months that I had forgotten about Keppies - an old favourite and again, a world leader in design and planning. Well! I noticed an article in the treacherous Urban Realm rag last week confirming that Keppies are back in the frame with a fantastic appointment for the design and landscaping of the new £19.3m headquarters for West Dunbartonshire Council - the same Council that brought us this. ( My story is at the foot of the page but the original Guardian article has been removed for legal reasons!)

This is fantastic news for Keppies who will get a nice fat fee out of this but there are many other considerations. The idea of the development is peppered with mistakes which will have many long term implications. Let's have a look at this from an expert planner's viewpoint - ie mine.
Dumbarton Town Hall - An impediment to development - ripe for demolition
An impediment to development - ripe for demolition

First of all, the development seems to be retaining the A-Listed facade of a derelict building and this is clearly an elementary mistake. It would have been cheaper and far better to have knocked this down and built a completely modern structure. I feel that Keppies would be good at this! It could have been a well-earned smack in the face for the conservation lobby instead of a lily-livered piece of tokenism. Or even panderingism!

Secondly, I seriously question the location of the development in Dumbarton town centre - which like so many others across Scotland is a dead zone full of rats, welfare scroungers and tumbleweed. In my view, this development should have been located on a greenfield site with easy parking and good connections to major strategic routes. Another advantage of out-of-town town halls is that it is more difficult for the great unwashed to turn up out of the rain with a series of petty complaints about things they know nothing about, soaking up staff time in the process.

Now Keppie's Director Richard MacDonald is quoted as saying, “This is an important regeneration project for Dumbarton and the redevelopment of this site is a fantastic opportunity to integrate a sympathetic but contemporary solution into the existing urban context", but we all know this is just PR rubbish. Secretly he only cares about the fee and that is absolutely the right approach. Some may say that this proposal follows the guiding principles of the Sir Malcolm Fraser Commission into Town Centres but I think that even he would agree that this is a poor show from West Dunbartonshire Council and should be the subject of an immediate review. After all, what is the point in building a brand new spanking development in an area that will cease to exist in the next few years?

Now I'm not sure about this but I assume that as is the case with most Council offices, the amount of space taken up by toilets is proportionally much more than in normal buildings. Reading racks for the Daily Record in each booth take up a lot of space and there is considerably more demand for and uptake of this facility than in say a call centre. It's an interesting design parameter - isn't it? There is no mention of this on Urban Realm although the discussion boards are alive with commentary from Big Chantelle and Spellcheck, two of the leading architectural critics and thought leaders of the Urban Realm website.

You know, if this unfortunate development is ever built, I think people will look back on it and shake their heads, wondering how this ever happened. Maybe it will be the last silly development to take place before Scottish Independence - who knows. It could have been integrated in the great Lomondgate development where there is plenty of synergistic development - like coffee shops and burger bars and of course a dreadful Andy Scott horse sculpture. Anyway I have to praise Keppies for winning this and getting a nice fat fee but I utterly condemn the development as lightweight and lacking in any real planning principles.

All the best from Auchterness - see you later in the week maybe. Cheeriebye for now.

Monday, 1 December 2014

It's Charrette time again

A new land use plan being prepared  during a Scottish Government Charrette
A new land use plan being prepared
during a Scottish Government Charrette
You know, it's that time of year again - and I don't mean the Festive Season. Rather it is the Charrette Season - a time when many Councils find out if they can have their own Chimpanzees' Tea Party courtesy of the Scottish Government or if they have to wait for another year. As an expert planner, I'm aware of many Councils, some near Auchterness, who have tried and failed to win this dubious honour. I actually feel quite sorry for them! How can they have fallen for this ridiculous pantomime? How could they be so gullible?
creating the elements of the green strategy

Well it's a long story and a boring one so I'm going to skate over the details. Basically the Reverend Andrew Duany comes over to Scotland, persuades Wee Jimmy McKinnon, the then Head of Planning in the Scottish Government that charrettes were the way forward. I documented this before. He was a paid a goodly sum to run them in Dumfries, Fife and Aberdeen - and nothing worthwhile has happened since yet they have become 'the thing to do'. The answer!
putting the finishing touches to the town centre strategy
putting the finishing touches to the town centre strategy


Now make no mistake, Duany is a star turn and in a completely different class to the nonentities that have turned up to run the Scottish Government Charrette process in recent years. I don't need to name names as you all know who they are - arrogant, insincere, preening folk with the gift of the gab but no other talent. Frankly, I would just need to turn up in my purple corduroy suit with Duncan and Cameron and we would do better than these guys.

If you are looking for a bit of funding though, these Charrettes are the only game in town, hence the attraction to poor and useless Councils who are so starved of talent and resources that a Chimpanzees' Tea Party becomes an attractive and desirable thing to do. It's simply a marker for how planning has deteriorated over the years to the point where these trivial events are treated seriously.
making a model of the new community centre
making a model of the new community centre

Thinking about some of the greatest successes of planning over the last few years such as Glasgow Harbour promoted by the great Sir Ewan Jamieson, the epicentre of dynamic growth at Edinburgh Waterfront planned by Forth Ports or God's Own Gold Course at Menie designed and built by Hon Dr Donald Trump himself, we all know that charrettes were not part of the process of creating these magnificent environments. Halliday Fraser Munro haven't been near a charrette yet they are perhaps the finest architectural firm in Scotland - if not in Europe!
Group 2 seem unwilling to give their feedback
Group 2 seem unwilling to give their feedback

Take my word for it, playing around with paint and scribbling on bits of paper is never going to create world class projects in our lovely wee Scotland. Pantomime performances by the same old faces of  'the Scottish animators' or whatever they are called is never going to produce anything other than the same old stuff. The professional press is totally compliant and therefore complicit in this because it represents a good bit of business. RTPI Scotland should act on this now - it's time that this nonsense stopped!

All the best from Auchterness - have a great week and I'll be back very soon. Cheeriebye for now!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The crocodile in the room

Dave Thompson in disguise
My disguise was ineffective
You know, my regular readers will be aware that winter and the festive season can bring pain and emotional distress to many, including your faithful scribe here at Auchterness. Of course as a town planner, the work must go on despite the calendar filling up with parties, dinners and quiz nights. I won't go to any of these of course - they are just a distraction from the serious work of commentating on the future development of our bonny wee country.

But to get to the point, last week I found myself thinking about my failed marriage, my beautiful wife, her young lover and of course the boy. It's been many months since I've had any contact and I started to wonder what had become of them. I decided to embark on a reconnaissance mission to find out more - to scratch the itch or perhaps to pick the scabs of my previous happy life. For me it's the crocodile in the room.

So earlier in the week, I decided to drive to their house in disguise. I happen to have in my possession a 'dressing up box' containing among other things a blonde wig, various spectacles, a Sherlock Holmes outfit that I have used for Public Inquiries and a one piece rabbit suit. I tried on various combinations but settled on the blonde wig and heavy framed spectacles. I planned my trip meticulously and yesterday I set out to spy on them. Dave Thompson - Secret Agent!

First of all I went to the BP Garage to get a small packet of oatcakes for the trip. "Hello Mr Thompson", said the cheek young hooligan behind the till. This was the first sign that my disguise was not as convincing as I thought. As I drove on, people were waving at me - how strange! Nevertheless I continued in an easterly direction and was at the end of their street in 50 minutes. I decided to do a quick pass of the property first of all - I drove down the street being careful to look ahead but of course I was looking for their house. What I saw shocked me beyond measure.

I saw a house with a huge front extension which should never have been granted planning permission. Almost the entire front garden was taken up by this enormous structure and the remains of the garden was now a car park. I was speechless! I decided to have another look and drove to the end of the street, turned and slowly drove back. As I approached the new development I pulled up at the kerb to take a photograph. Suddenly a football bounced off my windscreen. "Grandad! Grandad! What the f*** are you doing here?" It was the boy! I don't know how he recognised me or where he learned to speak like that - well actually I do know. It all comes from the down-and-out who is pretending to be his father. "Haha - are you a pervert now?" he asked.

I rapidly engaged gear and tried to pull away but the car stalled. A few people had gathered round to see what was happening - it was deeply embarrassing. Eventually I got the car going and it shot up the street in a cloud of burning rubber and blue smoke. I tore off my wig on the way home and threw it out of the window.
I will report this house extension to the appropriate authorities. If it does have planning permission I will be asking for an investigation to be carried out by RTPI Scotland to establish how this happened. I'm sure Wee Craigie McLaren will be all over this one. If it does not have consent I will be pressing for immediate Enforcement Action.

Best wishes from Auchterness - have a great week and cheeriebye for now.

Friday, 14 November 2014

In praise of BDP and the Buchanan Quarter

BDP's magnificent proposal to replace the Yes Steps at Glasgow Concert Hall
BDP's magnificent proposal to replace the
'Yes Steps' at Glasgow Concert Hall
You know, I was stimulated beyond my wildest dreams when I read about BDP's proposals for the Buchanan Quarter in Glasgow. This isn't just a quarter - it's at least two thirds or maybe more! When I first saw it I thought I had died and gone to heaven - such is its magnificence! It's a fantastic concrete cash register and just the job for the plebs and jakies of Glasgow.

Now Buchanan Galleries is a great development already but this improves it by a quantum leap - it's like finding a Mars Bar in your glove box when you thought you only had a small piece of chewing gum!

Just by way of a bit of background, BDP were once known as Building Design Partnership - and very well respected they once were in architectural circles. But in 1997 they wisely decided to give up the partnership idea and became a proper limited company so that they could split the profit between the owners rather than sharing it with the staff who don't matter anyway. Naked greed is always a sensible choice in my opinion.

One of BDP's most famous buildings is Preston Bus Station - a 1960s concrete behemoth held in high esteem by the public and was regarded as the best building in Preston. After their move into the land of capitalism and profit, BDP were active in efforts to demolish the bus station but failed miserably. Unfortunate.

Anyway, this proposal for Buchanan Galleries will certainly get the sound of cash registers clattering out from the top of Buchanan Street. The £300m project will attempt to knit the giant mall into the surrounding urban fabric and transport infrastructure. The principal feature is a new ‘Rotunda’ at the head of Buchanan Street - it's a magnificent proposal. 
Civic space will be removed - quite right
Civic space will be removed - quite right

At a stroke it completely wipes out the Glasgow Concert Hall steps which became a Yes Campaign rallying point during the Independence Referendum. Glasgow City Council have obviously requested that these steps be removed for political reasons and replaced with a glass tube. This is very sensible as civic spaces have no place in the serious business of retail activity - have they? BDP are to be congratulated on this decisive moment in the history of Scottish civic spaces - they have proved that servant architects and compliance with local political will trumps integrity every time.

You know it's so refreshing to see the work of architects who have absolutely no principles, conscience or concern for public opinion - or any distinguishing abilities or competence in design or planning. It means that they can focus on serving their clients, bending over that drawing board and returning a good old profit. Personally I love it and I have nothing but the highest praise for this project which must rank as one of my Projects of 2014!  It's like one of those mouthwashes you see on television - totally refreshing!

BDP have recently picked up some consultancy work in Aberdeen for the City Council and to me this means only one thing. Local authorities have finally realised that design and plaicemaking don't actually matter at all! All these highfalutin ideas about connectivity and public realm are just the dried up old spiders' webs of a profession in decline! Clearly BDP have cornered the market in obsequious toadying and client compliance and for this they earn a very large gold star and a big tick in my little black book.

All the best from Auchterness - I'll be back soon with more exciting insight into the world of town planning. Cheeriebye for now!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Shovel-ready Mick's Use

A fantastic new mixed use development in Aberdeen
You know, this week has been an interesting experience so far. I've had to buy Big Sandra a new handbag after Duncan's Pot Noodle landed in it. I just gave her the money rather than choosing one myself - it's better that way.

I've also had to make a short and sharp public apology to Duncan for my violent outburst - it was made in the staff canteen and was greeted by the usual sniggering from the back of the room. The powers that be also asked Duncan to make a grovelling public apology to me for deliberately winding me up. I must admit I was rather ungracious in my long acceptance speech which lasted a full 41 minutes. But thank goodness it is all over, although in some ways I have emerged triumphant - AND I WOULD CERTAINLY DO IT AGAIN! (but don't tell anyone)

Anyway, I thought I would alert you to an interesting new concept that I heard about in the last few days. You know I have kept you all in the loop with an expert planner's insight into some of the exciting ideas that keep planning in the public eye. I've talked recently about Non-Planning which was invented at Armadale by Ema. Before that I discussed Mono-Use in the slums of Glasgow's West End and opened your eyes and ears to the fact that this was the coming thing.

Well the other day I heard about Mick's Use. I think this is one of these magical historic moments when an idea is united with the name of the person who invented it - like the Barnett Formula or even Obama Care! In planning we already have Howard's Way which is of course a methodology for designing garden cities that was invented by Ebeneezer Howard. We also have Lord Ashfield who identified so much derelict land in England and Sir Lawrie Barratt who of course gave his name to the Barratt Box. Marvellous isn't it?

Now I don't know who Mick is or even what the meaning of the concept is but it sounds very impressive. Combined with the Scottish Government's 'shovel-ready' projects it sounds incredibly exciting - doesn't it? I will find out more in due course and hopefully review an exciting project that embodies this new principle. It's another turning point for planning practice and is surely worth an article in the esteemed Scottish Planner - or it might even be up for an Award! Who knows?

That's it for me until the weekend. I'm sure I've wetted your appetite and remember you can always trust Auchterness to bring you the latest and best from the exciting world of town planning. Because of that my lovely wee blog gets thousands of hits every month - many more than the RTPI gets! Fact! 

Cheeriebye for now and enjoy the rest of your week!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Humiliation

the flying pot noodle
You know, I've got myself into a bit of hot water. I was having lunch the other day in the staff canteen with my colleague Duncan and others when he asked me in his sly smirking way why I write so enthusiastically about companies, organisations, architects and planners 'who have absolutely no skills, talent or ability', as he put it. I bristled.

He listed many of the people who are featured regularly on my lovely wee blog in less than flattering terms. He described Sir Ian Wood as a 'semi-senile old goat' who was basically 'a Tory puppet caught telling lies during the referendum campaign and was personally responsible for the shambles of Union Terrace Gardens'. Out of the corner of my eye I could see people sniggering around the room.

He recalled our trip to Dobbies back in July and said it was a terrible experience - humiliating and embarrassing. He said that Dobbies was 'basically a s***house full of overpriced tat, half-dead plants and pensioners stuffing their faces with the most unhealthy food imaginable while their grandchildren ran around creating chaos'.

Unknown to Duncan, I was secretly rolling up my personal copy of the Press and Journal below the table and just waiting for my moment to strike.

He said that my unconditional support for 'a series of awful and dismal developments throughout Aberdeen' was ridiculous and made me look like a fool. He said I was 'an embarrassment to the entire planning profession'. I tensed up.

And at the mention of Hon Dr Donald Trump I leapt to my feet and smacked Duncan on the side of the head with the newspaper. 'Take that!' I shouted. It was a magnificent blow - his Pot Noodle went flying across the room as he fell backwards to the floor. The Pot Noodle landed in Big Sandra's handbag.

For a moment I was the victor. 'That will teach you!' I shouted and looked around for appreciation and support. There was none. And then I realised what I had done. I slipped quietly out of the canteen and locked myself in the executive toilet.  I stayed there for a few hours ignoring the banging on the door. When everything was quiet I slipped out, sprinted to the car park and drove home.

I'm not sure what will come of this. There could be an enquiry, a tribunal or even charges of assault or early retirement. I feel that I was taunted - he baited and humiliated me knowing that I might react badly. I spent today wielding my trusty axe in the garden and felt a little better. Still I did the wrong thing and might even have to apologise.  The shame of it.  I haven't even heard anything from John Glenday by way of an apology for proposing that Aberdeen should get a Carbuncle Award.

Sorry to be a bit down but I will bounce back.  Cheeriebye form Auchterness.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Figures of Light

Planners together - Sarah Boyack (left) and Henry McLeish (right)
Planners together
Sarah Boyack and Henry McLeish
You know, I felt so proud this week when I heard that Sarah Boyack MSP had thrown her hat in the ring and announced her candidacy for the Leadership of the Labour Party Branch Office in Scotland. As we expert planners will know, Sarah like us is a town planner, as was Henry McLeish, Scotland's second First Minister, famous for a pigs-in-the-trough incident that blotted his copybook. I recall that the Sunday Herald encouraged him to 'rent in peace' after his resignation. That incident gave planning the highest possible profile and that was terrific for the profession! Wasn't it?

You see, every planner has an inner desire to make the most of every situation - a drive to shake off the shackles of convention and rise above the humdrum. It's part of the expert planner's DNA and perfectly natural for someone like Sarah Boyack, who probably has very few talents other than planning, to aspire to lead the Labour Party Branch Office in Scotland, to enjoy the cut and thrust of First Minister's Questions and ultimately to become First Minister.

As an expert planner I do hope that Sarah Boyack rises to the top table and is successful in her latest venture. It will be an incredible boost for RTPI Scotland and will genuinely give them something worthwhile to boast about.

It's one of the great things about the society in which we live that people, and indeed companies, organisations, architects and planners with absolutely no skills or talent can prosper and grow in the modern Scotland.  You know, I've heard it said that leadership figures simply emerge through being understood and respected as 'figures of light'. People who have a kind of 'forcefield' around them. We've seen many in Scotland in recent years and they have all shared this incredible charisma - Jack McConnell, Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray and Johann Lamont to name but a few. I'm absolutely certain that Sarah Boyack will fit like a glove into this panoply of brilliant people that Scotland looks up to.

Best wishes from Auchterness! I'll be back soon so cheeriebye for now.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Declaration of War

John Glenday - please stick to gossip and tittle-tattle
John Glenday - please stick to gossip and tittle-tattle
You know, much as I like Urban Realm and enjoy the tittle-tattle and pettiness of the comment section under each news item, I'm personally affronted that John Glenday should choose Aberdeen, Scotland's most dynamic city and epicentre of sustainable growth, as a potential recipient of the upcoming Carbuncle Awards. Moreover, to rub salt into my wounds, he states that it is 'an early front-runner ... as the silver city fades to grey amidst a steady drip and questionable planning decisions.' (sic)

Glenday states that the oil capital has been accused of turning its back on its main artery, Union Street, by 'sanctioning the remorseless expansion of undercover malls'. How could he have got it so wrong? My lovely wee blog is full of articles describing proposed improvements, big ideas and a host of terrific new buildings for the Silver City. He has chosen to ignore these as part of a cheap publicity stunt!

Glenday goes on to say, “Aberdeen has a rich granite heritage and in the Victorian era the city was built to last, sadly the same can’t be said of the flimsy, ill-considered buildings going up across the city today". Well John, how stupid are you? Buildings aren't made to last these days - it's a fact of life that they are now temporary, maybe lasting 30 years at the most, so your Victorian era fantasy is just silly romantic nonsense!
 Matthew Hay emergency care centre by Mackie Ramsay Taylor
A great building - the Matthew Hay Emergency Care Centre
by Mackie Ramsay Taylor


He continues, “Serious questions need to be asked of planners who appear to be simply rubber-stamping the schemes that are put in front of them. There appears to be an attitude of ‘anything goes’ as long as it brings in immediate cash." Yes John - that is the whole idea!. The reality is that these planners are heroes! They are in the vanguard of new approaches to development which include the latest trends such as mono-use and non-planning which I have recently explained. I have to say to Mr Glenday, "Shut up foolish person!" What you are complaining about is totally deliberate and highly successful. Can you not see that Aberdeen is the powerhouse of the Scottish economy simply because it lets these great things happen and doesn't bother with the usual plaice-making rubbish or the routine time-wasting associated with getting planning permission?

I'm very angry and disappointed at Urban Realm and by its Editor in Chief. I know that the Carbuncle Awards are a useful source of publicity for the magazine and choosing Scotland's most successful city will give it even more media coverage. But this is a cheap and unwarranted attack - it is a declaration of war on the New Scottish Enlightenment and of course on Auchterness. So some words of advice - why don't you focus on things you are good at, like gossip and tittle-tattle, instead of trying to stir up criticism of things you don't understand - like town planning? You know absolutely nothing about Aberdeen or about planning - NOTHING!

I hope to receive a full apology in early course from Urban Realm and John Glenday, otherwise I will consider my position and may launch a significant counterattack. 

Cheeriebye for now from Auchterness - enjoy the rest of the week.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Doing the Quango at Shawfield

The magnificent new Gulag proposal for Shawfield, Glasgow
The magnificent new Gulag proposal for Shawfield, Glasgow
You know, I've often seen 'Clyde Gateway' mentioned in various reports and newspapers over the last few years. I thought it was a railway station or the entrance to a public park or even a terrible piece of public art by cliché artist Andy Scott until I read an article in Urban Realm the other week. It emerges that Clyde Gateway is a specially created urban regeneration company,  'tasked with driving forward a massive investment programme over a 20-year period ... to deliver unparalleled social, economic and physical change together with 1,200 football pitches'. Amazing and impressive!

Now apparently Clyde Gateway is seeking new investors 'to back its future development pipeline'. I was impressed again - here is yet another public organisation aspiring to be a switched-on private developer by adopting the language of management consultants, logistics and real estate.  A sound move, and they've commissioned 7N Architects (the folk who produced the joke plans for the Inverness Campus that I wrote about in 2010) to produce a master plan. Amazingly this is the largest commercial and industrial planning consent in Scotland - ever - and comprises Class 4 business space, shops, cafes, a gym, business centre and a hotel.  In other words it's big and ordinary but if successful, will make a handsome profit for someone. That's what it's all about isn't it?

And it just gets better for Clyde Gateway - 7N Architects are teamed up with Ironside Farrar who someone I know in Scottish Enterprise once described as the Death Star of Scottish consultants. The team is led by Mace, a consultancy that takes its name from a weapon with a heavy head on a solid shaft used to bludgeon opponents or a brand of teargas used by the police (Wikipedia). Either way it's a great choice of name! All in all this is a magnificent team of grim sloggers who will inevitably grind out a result of some kind.
A green landscape will be woven around the riverside setting
A green landscape will be woven around the riverside setting
- stop laughing at the back

A quick look at the proposals reveals a sun-dappled prospect which an Urban Realm critic described as looking like a communist ghetto. In my expert planner's view this doesn't matter. These CGIs are just a series of vacuous cliches - a sort of shorthand for 'we will do something but we don't know what it will be yet'. So what? We've seen recently that Non-planning and Non-design actually works and is a huge time-saver for architects. Frankly design is no longer an important factor at this stage of a development - these drawings are just meaningless bits of wallpaper to kid people on that some thought has gone into it. Well actually that is very unfair - a lot of thought has gone into it but it hasn't been architectural. Instead, the calculators have been out!

You can see how this is going to end. A developer or consortium of developers will do the Dance of the Seven Veils in the Clyde Gateway offices ( probably in reception) - that's what we expert planners call the initial stages of seduction by the developer. Chief Executive of Clyde Gateway Ian Manson's tongue will be hanging out and the rest of the Board will be consumed with desire. They will unanimously accept an offer. Some of the master plan may be built but it won't look anything like the CGI stuff in the Urban Realm puff - it will be even worse - but who cares? Job done and better than nothing!

This is a great development that earns a gold star and a big tick in my wee black book. It's just right for an area that has gone to the dogs. This team of sloggers will do their best to come up with the goods. A developer will make a stack of money producing some bottom dollar sheds and Clyde Gateway will massage the result as a huge success. So everyone will be happy. Welcome to the fantastic Tory world of Scottish quango-led property development.

Have a great week and all the best from Auchterness. Cheeriebye for now!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Anything but Armadale

the magnificent Southdale development
The magnificent Southdale development - near Armadale
You know, it's a few weeks since I brought you my expert planner's take on a new development. One of my fans recently drew my attention to a place called Southdale which is very close to Armadale which many of you will know is one of the darkest of Central Scotland's black spots - like the aptly named Blackridge - only bigger and blacker. In fact Southdale is a rebadged part of Armadale - a clever move, and much better than calling the area Legadale in my humble view.

As the developer's website points out via a useful timeline for the project, this has been many years in the making. Centuries in fact since the timeline starts in the year 1500.

We've seen before how important it is to get the name of a development right and often developers will change names in mid-course if it will result in higher profile and profits. We saw this happening at Caltongate in Edinburgh which has been rebranded as New Waverleygate. It's now a tour de force and an 'international benchmark for sensitive and innovative development' instead of  an 'incompetently designed clumping heap of over-developed trash' - not my words of course!

The Southdale Development seems to have been designed by Ema. It's great to see women taking a lead in our exciting world of planning and property development - isn't it?  I'm not sure who she is but she's done a great job.  It's what we could call Non-planning - look out for it as it's the coming thing and will soon be trending in exclusive planning and architectural circles now that I have mentioned it here. John Glenday of Urban Realm will inevitably ask me to write about it soon. Let me explain.

The idea of non-planning is that you take a piece of land owned by a greedy developer, divide it up into useful parcels and sell it off to whoever is interested. This is how Southdale was created. Honestly it is as simple as that! People like Taylor Wimpey, Arnold Clark, Bellway, Asda and Marstons will jump into bed with you before you can say A+DS! Non-planning means that you can forget about the usual stuff about plaice-making, public realm, mixed use (already outdated), walking distance and shared surfaces - my goodness I'm yawning already just typing these words!

As for architecture the great thing about Non-planning is that you simply don't bother - it really is a great timesaver and it produces the goods. No worries about materials, style, building heights etc - it's great and it looks as if Ema has captured the market here. Well done her!

This magnificent development gets a gold star and a big tick in my little black book. My hearty congratulations go out to everyone involved in it. It sets a perfect example for others who aspire to similar money-making activities across the Central Belt and I would be surprised if it wasn't up for an award or two in the near future.

All the best from Auchterness and cheeriebye for now.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Voices from the past

October 2014 The Planner - the business monthly for neoliberal planners
October 2014 The Planner - the business monthly for Tory planners

You know, when I received my own personal copy of The Planner the other day - 'the business monthly for planning professionals' as they call it - a cloud of gloom darkened my Auchterness sky. It was immediately obvious that while this issue seemed to be about 100 years of planning it was actually just about one important question:
  1. how can the profiles and reputations of the various dreadful people writing in this issue be restored given that most planners thought they were either dead or had retired many years ago?
So the theme of the issue is actually 'How can we get a bit of publicity for ourselves and give the impressions that we are switched on and care about what other planners think?'. Well that is a big ask isn't it?  The dry boke seemed imminent but luckily the tea trolley came round and settled me down again.

Take the article 'Who Leads Planning?' by Vincent Goodstadt. Now I remember Vincent from years ago though he won't remember me - he worked for Strathclyde Regional Council while I worked up the road at the SDA (now Scottish Enterprise) when it was at 120 Bothwell Street in Glasgow.

Quite frankly, his article was a severe shock for me. Yes it is full of cliches and management speak. It's another of these 'if I ruled the world' top-down perspectives that is patronising and remote. But it is full of spell-binding phrases that completely trump current planning jargon. Let's have a look:
reconnect with ethical and social foundations, bridge the gap between power and responsibility, step up its response, continuous virtual progression, regulatory creep, adversarial environment, seismic shifts, a managerialist culture (!), divided political and economic cultures, collaborative plaice leadership, supersede the silo and turf war culture, political football, draw a line in the sand, tokenistic checklist, bridge the chasm, short-term sticking plaster, etc etc
Amazing! I have never heard anyone speak like this! It was as if someone was pouring warm milk into my ears! Now some may say that it is the dreary mood-music of planning in 2014 - exactly the sort of thing that turns people off. But I found it to be intensely stimulating! Goodstadt has redefined the cliches of the profession before anyone could even say Use Classes Order! Well done Vinnie!

I noticed too that our leader in Scotland, Wee Craigie McLaren, has a nice wee feature in which he talks about light bulbs, stakeholders, enablers, facilitators and eureka moments. It's heady stuff and not for the faint-hearted. I'm sure he wrote it wearing his Sevco scarf! Later, we hear from John McNairney, Chief Planner with the Scottish Government that there are 'opportunities as well as challenges'. Well I'm completely amazed by this stunning insight!

Forbye these high spots, this issue of The Planner is a vile Tory rag. Stealing other people's ideas and re-badging them seems to be part of the culture of this rotten journal.  But perhaps we are all guilty of that from time to time. I know plenty of folk in Scottish Enterprise who've made careers for themselves doing it. The dreadful creepy advertisements from various planning consultancies congratulating the RTPI on its glorious 100 years made by stomach heave. I'm sure they all paid a hefty fee for the privilege of sending their best wishes to this pathetic organisation. It's all part of the incestuous back-slapping that is typical of organisations on the slide. Oh and another thing - a disgusting full page photograph of Prince Charles with a good coating of make-up hiding his grim flagellated features! Such ingratiating brown-nosing is typical of the Institute. Pathetic!

You know, it didn't take me long to decide what to do about all this. I threw this awful magazine on the floor of my office and stamped on it many times. I then went through to reception and asked Wee Heather for her big pair of scissors. I cut it into little pieces then went to the Executive Lavatory and flushed it away. I immediately felt better.

I'll be back with more exciting insight as soon as I can. I know that my fans can't wait for more news from the world of planning. Have a great week and remember, if you're passing Auchterness do come in for a natter. You can have a cup of tea and a biscuit - Gipsy Creams this week. Cheeriebye for now!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

New Lives, New Landscapes

the high street in the village on hirta st kilda by dawn menzies
Development opportunity - the High Street in the village on Hirta St Kilda
by photographer Dawn Menzies
You know, I was tremendously excited in the run-up to the Referendum. Like many thoughtful people, I was full of ideas for the future and had prepared a number of posts for my lovely wee blog that were guaranteed to have transfixed you with excitement. It's what planning is all about and exactly the sort of thing that is missing from the Barton Willmore Times - aka 'SP' - the Scottish Planner magazine.

For example, my plans for the regeneration of ports along the western seaboard of Scotland were original and groundbreaking and guaranteed to have you in a frenzy. These places could be literally buzzing with activity once my plans were implemented. Purdie prevented me from publishing them before the referendum but I can now reveal them to you.

A quick glance at the Wikipedia page 'List of outlying islands of Scotland' reveals a fantastic resource which many have forgotten about. Most of these islands were once populated. St Kilda, the Flannan Isles and Stroma are familiar names perhaps but little thought has been given to establishing new populations on them. Of course there is Rockall too although that is disputed by the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Iceland.
A regeneration vsessel bound for St Kilda
A regeneration vessel bound for St Kilda

My plan was that these islands would be resettled after the referendum. The idea of Better Together obviously had great appeal to the majority of voters and it seems entirely appropriate that Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, Joanne Lament, Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson and Douglas Alexander should be in the vanguard of new residents on these islands. The Scottish Parliament would of course offer devolved powers including of course tax raising and defence.

Now before some of you start complaining as my colleague Cameron did, saying that these are basically revolting ideas from a bygone age, of course it doesn't need to be the Better Together folk and their ugly old No voting followers. It's just that they have demonstrated leadership qualities and a winning mentality that would be useful in their new lives.
a cruise ship visits the new community
a cruise ship visits the new community
by photographer Dawn Menzies

This isn't simply a question of deportation - it's about the regeneration of these wonderful resources coupled with a fantastic uplift in activity in ports such as Mallaig, Ullapool, Stornoway and Wick. Companies such as Northen Light Charters and other shipping companies would have to service the new communities and would need bases and an entire supply chain of fish fingers, baked beans and whisky for the new settlers. It would be Booming Benbecula, Sizzling Stornoway and Unstoppable Ullapool. But that's just the marketing angle!

You know, when I read the current issue of the Scottish Planner, especially the words of the Puppet Convenor and Barton Willmore Stooge Stephen Tucker, in the article entitled 'Delivery Through a Tory Plan Led System', quoting the great American Architect Daniel Burnham's tired old saying, 'Make no little plans - they have no magic to stir men's blood...' I feel nauseous. It's a hairy old chestnut that many planners roll out all the time - and not just in autumn. I really wonder about the state of our profession - ruled by cliche. These words are just trite posteuring. Planning in Scotland has sunk so far as to be almost invisible and the pages of the 'SP' sum it all up. Busy doing nothing is more like it. It's time for change!

Thanks for reading this - I hope you are as excited as I am by future prospects for Scotland. It will be a great journey and Auchterness will be at the helm. Cheeriebye for now.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My Referendum Day

You know, I’ve been struggling to write anything since the referendum. Firstly I lost momentum with the onset of Purdie who stopped me from saying anything before the vote. Secondly I’ve found it difficult to feel that life goes on as normal since the 18th of September - but it probably does.

I remember going to vote. I turned up at the primary school to see lots of happy fat people wearing Yes badges and wheeling their children around in prams festooned with balloons - the idiocy of their dream-world beggared belief. I also saw lots of grim ugly old people with the same look on their faces as folk on an Orange Walk. Close to death, and deservedly so, they seemed determined to make one last effort to ruin the lives of future generations through their callous self-interest, fear of change and grovelling to the Royal Family.

You know, as an expert planner I could not allow myself to get involved in anything other than ‘the right thing’ for the profession. Trying to figure out which camp was better for planning was a challenge. Obviously there was much to be said for the way things are, especially in Aberdeen where rich people run rings round planners, but there was also merit in a fresh start. 

I sat outside the polling station for ages - thinking and wondering what to do. I tried to imagine what our leader, Wee Craigie McLaren of RTPI Scotland would do. I wondered what the RTPI Scotland Puppet Convenor and Barton Willmore stooge Stephen Tucker would do. Suddenly a big fat yes woman dragged me to my feet and started to dance with me in the school playground. I was wrestling with a gigantic jelly! A wizened no voter shouted abuse from his Range Rover while his hatchet-faced wife and their Corgi dogs looked on. It was totally humiliating. In the end I just went home.

I’m sure our lovely wee Scotland will become independent sooner or later and that planning will rise to the occasion. Meantime we all have to accept the fact that this is a Tory country in which some of my heroes have supported the status quo - Lord Wood of Union Terrace Gardens being particularly prominent. Ugly old people have won but next time, the gigantic jelly women may have their day.

Have a great few days till the weekend and best wishes from Auchterness. I’ll be back soon and I'll try to be more cheerful too - Cheeriebye for now.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aberdeen and the Mafia

Gonorreah controlled Aberdeen
You know, we've been very busy at Auchterness over the last few weeks. In fact my lovely wee blog has had to take second place to the major issues we have had to face such as the brain-drain to Inverurie and trying to implement the Sir Malcolm Fraser proposals for our town centre. Of course the Independence Referendum has interfered with my ability to say what I want to say because of Purdie. I've tried to find out who this person is but have failed so far.

It may be old news to many of you but a few weeks ago I came across an article in the Scotsman entitled 'Mafia tightens its grip on Aberdeen'. Ridiculous and typical of what appears in the loathsome Tory rag that once was the respected authority on Scottish News. Now it is as bad as the Scottish Planner. It seems to me that there is a conspiracy against the greatest city in Europe - if not the World. First of all the great motivators and entrepreneurs of the city are described as Masons. Then they are part of a vast Gay and Lesbian conspiracy involving dressing up for allegedly pointless Honorary Degree ceremonies. Now they are apparently part of the Mafia with allegations of violence and corruption in the world of vermicelli, ice cream and fish suppers. The Gomorrah are allegedly intimately involved in the city’s catering, retail and property sectors - not to mention public works!

You know, Sir Ian Woods has been described as a sort of Darth Vader character but for me, the Godfather image does seem more appropriate. Personally I would bend down and kiss his ring if it meant that I could become part of Team Aberdeen! So would Wee Craigie McLaren! 
A Pokey Hat
I would be delighted to sell pokey-hats in Union Terrace Gardens if I could experience the amazing buzz of being part of the Aberdeen Enterprise Experience!

So when I read about the Gonorreah in a useless Tory Rag and calls for Police action against them, frankly I don't care. The press and others, including RTPI Scotland can try to besmirch the reputation of the great ones but in reality they are immune - beyond criticism. They are part of the New Scottish Enlightenment - nothing can stand in their way.

Have a great week and sorry to be so brief - September will bring much more news. Cheeriebye for now.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The real heroes of planning

Govan - from The Planner, photographed by the great Andrew Lee
You know, for the past few months I've tried to ignore the RTPI and it's awful publications. I have fought against the fat planners from London and the unspeakably self regarding RTPI Scotland but I appreciate too that this is probably quite boring for my fans who really just want to hear about the adventures of an expert planner - like me!

However I received my own personal copy of the The Planner last week - 'The business monthly for planning professionals' - and I must admit that it gave me the dry boke. In particular, there is an article about the renaissance of Govan, apparently 'thanks to an RTPI Award-Winning Project'. I'm quoting this because it sums up the shameless dishonesty of the goons in London - and how quickly they have rushed to claim this project as one of their own after many fine people in 'the town' of Govan and Glasgow (who are not RTPI Members) have worked tirelessly to make it happen.

This sort of thing is nothing new of course. I remember back in my days with Scottish Enterprise, many of our esteemed thought leaders were adept at claiming responsibility for work that local councils had done. Goodness knows how the councils managed it - after all they spent half the morning eating bacon rolls and most of the afternoons on 'site visits'. The rest of the time they were in the toilet reading the Daily Record.
Scottish Planner cover
Anyway, this seems to be an accepted part of RTPI practice now. Just look at the latest issue of SP - the Scottish Planner sponsored of course by Barton Willmore and headed up by their stooge Stephen Tucker. The picture on the cover is of a loving couple about to commit suicide from a cliff-top above Edinburgh. I assume they are planners who have read an article from a previous SP in which RTPI Scotland staff murder the English language, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. The latest SP asks the question, 'What is Scotland's Best Plaice?' and follows through with a mind-numbing parade of who's who in Scottish Planning and their predictably dull self-promoting twaddle, desperate to associate themselves with projects that others have been responsible for or which would have happened anyway.

The contrast with my heroes of the New Scottish Enlightenment is vivid! With the Honarary Dr Donald Trump, the Honarary Dr Wee Stuartie Milne or with Sir John Halliday of Halliday Fraser Munro and his large pencil you know exactly what has been done and who is responsible. No special pleading, no lies or exaggeration. Bang! - you have a wonderful project!
The great Sir Ewan Jamieson Of Clydeport 
When I read this week that another great man, Sir Ewan Jamieson of Clydeport, had single-handedly been granted planning consent for student accommodation on the banks of the Kelvin (otherwise known as Glasgow Harbour and a project that you heard about first on my lovely wee blog) I was filled with admiration. But of course the question is 'Who approved this development in Glasgow City Council?' and why is he or she not mentioned in the Scottish Planner? Why hasn't this planner won an award? An RTPI Award? That's the crux of it!

We are asked to swallow a pack of fairy stories from faceless goons in London and Edinburgh lining their own canoes with half truths and puffing themselves up like gannets on the seafront in their Marks and Spencer suits. Meanwhile a generation of real planners - those who have approved projects by Trump, Stewart Milne Homes and Clydeport are left in anonymity. It doesn't seem fair to me.

Apologies for the rant. Best wishes from Auchterness and remember, you are always welcome to drop in for a wee chat, a cup of tea and a biscuit. Rich Abernethy this week! Cheeriebye for now!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Aberdeen's Pocket Genius

Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne
Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne
You know, when we all grow old and start reminiscing about the good times and the great things we have experienced as planners in our respective illustrious careers, it won't be the talking heads of Scottish Planning that come to mind. I won't mention names and really I don't need to - you all know who they are. And so do they! They turn up at Chapter meetings full of themselves and the latest ideas that they have appropriated from brighter folk and then trivialised for mass consumption.

No! It will be the astonishing success of planning in Aberdeen - in our lifetime. I read in the Press and Journal this week that Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne has submitted a proposal of application notice for a residential development with parking at the Cloverleaf Hotel in Bucksburn. Apparently the hotel will be toast! A spokeswoman for the company said yesterday that the building on Kepplehills Drive would be demolished.
Crying out to be demolished - Cloverleaf Hotel
Crying out to be demolished - Cloverleaf Hotel

The firm plans to build houses on the site, but the spokeswoman said it was too early to say how many properties there might be. As an Expert Planner, I know the answer to that. "As many as possible!"  Back in June, the Stewart Milne Group was poised to buy the five-star Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen, with plans for a luxury housing development on the site. Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne confirmed that the company had an option to acquire the North Deeside Road site.

Even to the stupid talking heads of Scottish Planning the pattern should be obvious. I talked recently about mono-use and how it was the coming thing - in fact mono-use is the new mixed use. These hotels are now seen as 'non-conforming uses'* and will be swept away before you can say ‘Section 63 Notice!’
*(that's a term that I don't expect you all to understand but please just accept that we expert planners use these words to communicate clearly with each other) 

In the same article, it was announced that plans have also been lodged for a new six-storey 200 room hotel as part of a business park development near Aberdeen International Airport. ABZ of course and I have written before about this clever development from the big pencil of John Halliday himself!

The £15m venture from hotel operator Moxy would be its first in the UK. The firm already trades in Milan and plans to open an outlet in London as well as Oslo in Norway and Munich, Berlin, and Frankfurt in Germany. Amazing isn't it - Auchterness brought you this news first! So Aberdeen is viewed very much as an international city and centre of the Oil Universe!

So hotels are being cleared out of residential areas and better hotels are appearing on business parks. Soon we may have hotel parks - that would be logical. And guess who is centre stage in all this - Hon Dr Wee Stewartie Milne - the pocket genius responsible in part for the implementation of the New Scottish Enlightenment in the Aberdeen area.

You know, as winter approaches and we all gather round the log fire with our mugs of Ovaltine to speak in hushed tones about plaicemaking and exchange stories about Copenhagen and other second rate European cities, we will do well to remember that one of our very own cities has had a magnificent year - a year that has completely eclipsed the achievements of European upstarts like Antwerp, Malmo or Stockholm. Let’s celebrate this wonderful achievement now!

Have a great weekend! Best wishes from Auchterness. Cheeriebye for now.