Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Central Scotland Saved!

The fantastic and gifted Dr Donald Trump
The fantastic and gifted Dr Donald Trump

There is fantastic news for Ayrshire and Central Scotland this week. My hero Dr Donald Trump has bought the derelict golf course and hotel known as Turnberry.

In a statement, Dr Trump said it was "an honour and privilege to own one of golf's greatest and most exciting properties". He has purchased the entire South Ayrshire complex, including the hotel, from Dubai-based group Leisurecorp for an undisclosed sum. He will invest millions of pounds securing thousands of jobs and turning the hotel from little more than a boarding house into a place with the highest levels of luxury. Amazing news!
The derelict hotel at Turnberry will become the Best in Europe!
The derelict hotel at Turnberry will become the Best in Europe!

The Aberdeen area has benefited enormously from the trickle-down effect of many rich and clever people basically outwitting planners and their quiche-eating supporters by developing whatever they want wherever they want and providing jobs for hundreds of green-keepers, plumbers, electricians and other skilled tradesmen in the process.

Naturally the great unwashed and the moaning middle classes are busy opposing every creative change and enterprising idea Dr Trump proposes. Local authority planners are blind to the benefits of his fantastic golf courses and they will be crawling all over this latest move, checking to see if anything doesn't tally with existing consents. That is what planning has been reduced to by the RTPI and its Scottish counterparts (who publish the most boring professional journal in the World) led by former career civil servant Wee Craigie McLaren from their posh Edinburgh New Town offices. No elitism there of course - but no innovation, creativity or enterprise either! In fact they are the Enemies of Enterprise - the dead hand of bureaucracy floating in a stagnant pool of newts and toads!  They are the puppet-masters who pull the strings of Development Management, formerly known as Development Control which has traditionally been the dumping ground for planners who were unfit to hold down a proper job in local authority planning.

Anyway I digress. Many congratulations to Ayrshire and Central Scotland on being the beneficiaries of this fantastic intervention by my favourite doctor. It gets a Gold Star and a big tick in my little black book.

Cheeriebye for now.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dundee's Waterfront - clichés and suits

Mike Galloway OBE - on the the waterfront
Mike Galloway OBE - on the waterfront
You know, I'm never surprised to hear that planners in Dundee are busy with their seemingly interminable Central Waterfront proposals. Well they haven't much else to do down there apart from arranging their holidays and reading the Courier in the toilet.

It therefore didn't come as much of shock when one of my many fans pointed out yet another totally self-serving article about the 'city', this time in BQ Magazine - a sort of online portal of irrelevancy that normal people simply wouldn't bother with. Have a look yourselves.

Suffice to say that BQ seem to have a similar editorial policy to the Scottish Planner - they will print any old tosh that people send them. They were so desperate for copy that they printed over 3000 words from what seems to be a PR Company's press release and this must have been a source of great pleasure to those folk who run the Central Waterfront project, especially Perma-tanned Royalist Mike Galloway OBE, the Director of City Development. He will still be hurting badly after his terrible bid for Dundee to be UK City of Culture was thrown out in favour of Hull - that's how bad it was! Well what goes around comes around! You can't always get your way!

So I fought my way through this dreary article. It's full of words like lost opportunity, heart and soul, punches well above its size, pre-eminence, world leading waterfront destination, enhancement of its physical, economic and cultural assets, game-changer, ring-fenced, spin-offs, knowledge-based industries, renewable industries, Guggenheim in Bilbao (yawn), central pillar, initial dinner-table conversation and catalyst for artistic life. The whole article is a cliché! The place is a cliché - project, town and the people promoting it! They all talk like this - I've even heard them on the train to Aberdeen (a real city). Bla-bla-bla...very contemporary...bla bla access to the waterfront...bla bla bla. It fair gives me the dry boke to hear planning turned into a mindless word game - a verbal jigsaw puzzle of random words. Sickening!

Anyway the next thing I know is that the project gets an £8m boost from public funds. So much for austerity!
A complete waste of money! Money that simply boosts the careers of silver tongued men in cheap suits climbing the public sector slippery pole to see how high they can get before retirement - voluntary or otherwise.

I'm going outside now with my axe to chop some wood.  Have a great week everyone and I'll see you again soon at Auchterness. Cheeriebye for now.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter and the Creative Process

My Flymo did it's work
You know, it's been a lovely day here at Auchterness and I've been busy in the garden. I cut the grass for the first time this year and finally got rid of the daffodils that were ruining the look of the front lawn - my trusty Flymo got rid of them in an instant!

I've always felt that destruction was an important part of the creative process. That is why as an Expert Planner I am so against the retention of old buildings and conservation in general.  And when it comes to the natural world, I've spoken before about the great battles that Dr Donald Trump has had with newts, toads, long grass and other pests in his heroically successful creation of God's Golf Course at Menie in Aberdeenshire. 

As most of my fans will know, Menie is just up the road from Aberdeen, the greatest city in Scotland, where so many of my heroes prosper through the sort of creative destruction that has self-righteous and humourless vegetarians crying into their mushroom quiche. 

My current favourites in the City of Light are of course Halliday Fraser Munro who are the go-to architects if you are a developer who wants fantastic quality, mesmerising efficiency and of course, unquestionably top rated reviews in the critical press. I understand that journals such as the Architectural Review, Mark Magazine, Icon and Wallpaper are simply crammed with HFM projects. We can't afford any of these magazines at Auchterness so I can't confirm if this is the case - though I'm sure it is.

You know, everything I hear about HFM is just spellbinding! For example someone in the office was telling me that he had read somewhere - probably in Urban Realm - that John Halliday, the man with the Big Pencil, known throughout the land as Scotland's Le Corbusier and the design genius behind the dazzling work of HFM, discusses his creative process with his housekeeper!  Isn't that amazing?  I'm really so impressed - I can just see Big John asking her to switch off the Hoover while they discuss Union Terrace Gardens or the Union Street Umbrella.  He is truly a man of the people!

Anyway, it's a holiday weekend and I've tried to make this post an easy-read rather than the usual deeply analytical observations about the amazing world of town planning.  I hope you are all having a great time rolling your Easter Eggs!  Have a good week and we'll speak again soon. Cheerybye for now!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Paisley to disappear

The deadzone that is Paisley town centre
The deadzone that is Paisley town centre
You know, I was down in the slums of Glasgow last week for an important business meeting and afterwards, I just missed my train back to civilisation. I had to hang around George Square for a while watching the drug addicts and women of the night looking for business but bought myself the Evening Times to distract me until the next train departed.

I burst out laughing when I read an article claiming that the deeply misguided and antediluvian Renfrewshire Council were thinking about preparing a future bid that would see Paisley as UK City of Culture. This is rather like hoping that the Scottish Planner will actually print an interesting article. Or hoping that a future article in the Scottish Planner might not be embarrassingly self-serving or dripping with the syrup of faux humility.

Anyway, this Evening Times article talked of harnessing the town's heritage to 'drive tourism'. What kind of rubbish is this? It goes on to say, "Key projects include a £50m revamp of Paisley Museum and the creation of a fashion and design centre on the High Street". Then unbelievably, "A team of funding, heritage, marketing and tourism experts was invited to the town to advise the council on how to make the dream a reality".

Maybe they didn't come - I know I wouldn't bother because the town is dead. It was killed a long time ago by the absolutely wonderful Braehead Shopping Centre and associated retail facilities, including IKEA where, but a short time ago, you were once able to get horse meatballs. For people from Paisley, that is probably a delicacy and would make a change from pie suppers and Buckfast. Braehead is of course their main shopping centre and they clearly value it – there’s almost nothing left of good old Paisley!
Braehead - what's not to like?
Braehead - what's not to like?

Braehead is brilliantly successful not only as a retail centre but also, and this is as a very important expert planner word, as an ‘entertainment hub’. It also has ‘mixed use’! I've spoken before about Ferry Village and Renfrew Riverside where genius architects Young and Gault created untrampled loveliness in a luxurious housing project that is the epitome of stylish living. There are car showrooms, indoor ski-slopes and coffee bars you can drive to. Also there is a public park designed by Ian White (one of my favourites) who really bends over the drawing board to accommodate the biggest developers and is very much sought after. He is famously the landscape architect for the SECC just up the river and what a splendid job he made of laying out the tarmac around that memorable work of architectural brilliance. In other words, Braehead is a good example of real plaice-making!

So when I think about the deadzone that is Paisley and the UK City of Culture, I really wonder what kind of substances the Council folk have been putting in their tea. It truly is a mad fantasy. Council leader Mark Macmillan said: "The heritage regeneration strategy could be one of the most significant things to happen to the area in a long time". Ah but wait!
Spiders for Paisley!
Spiders for Paisley!

Just underneath this article was much more significant news for Paisley. Spiders will be the focus of an evening hosted by the Paisley Natural History Society as part of their winter programme of talks. The event will discuss spider biology, ecology and life strategies. The people of Paisley and their Council officials and elected members would do well to attend this talk. They might learn something useful about evolution. They will then understand why their town centre is dead, why it will never 'regenerate' and why the whole town will disappear over the next decades.

It's an apocalyptic message I know but the role of the Expert Planner is to enlighten and help the great unwashed to understand how wonderful planning is! I know I have helped albeit in a small way! Have a great week - cheerbye for now!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Scottish Planner: infiltration or sponsorship?

The latest edition of the Scottish Planner - now part of the Barton Willmore stable

You know, a friend of mine in a nearby local authority planning department called me up on Friday. He was agitated to say the least. He had just received the latest Scottish Planner magazine. I've spoken of this learned journal on many occasions. Previously sponsored by my friends Halcrow, it is now sponsored by international consultancy Barton Willmore (and a firm called Dwarf  - DWF). It is the mouthpiece of RTPI Scotland, a Registered Charity, a Royalist organisation of course and supposedly the professional journal of town planners in Scotland. It is filled to the brim with tittle-tattle and the dreary opinions of people who feel that others want to hear what they have to say. I know a bit about publishing these days and actually getting content is one of the biggest problems. This might well apply to the Scottish Planner and if it does, they will basically print anything they are sent. That's why most planners put it straight in the bin.

My friend's concern arises from this new sponsorship from Barton Willmore. The new Convenor of RTPI Scotland is a Mr Stephen Tucker, Partner in Barton Willmore. The Scottish Planner is designed by Barton Willmore's graphics folk and produced by them. Well so what?

My friend's worry is that Barton Willmore have been given a megaphone by RTPI Scotland to broadcast their wares to the planning profession in Scotland, apparently without any obvious referral to members or proper scrutiny - though I'm sure this has all been approved. It's rather like the RSPB magazine being sponsored by Webley and Scott, the air gun manufacturer or the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland Journal being sponsored by a demolition contractor. He's completely out of line of course but you might see where he is coming from. How can RTPI Scotland be considered to be the voice of professional planning when it allows a partner in a firm of commercial planning consultants to use the Convenor's Comments section to talk about how wonderful he is and by implication, how wonderful they are? My friend asks if any and all consultancies can bid to sponsor the Scottish Planner and is this an equal and open process or is it part of the old boys' network? Why Barton Willmore and why Halcrow before them? Well I don't know and I don't care! Remember - hardly anyone reads this magazine so no one else will care either!

We had a long chat about this in the magnificent surroundings of a Burger King at one of my favourite retail parks. I told him that he had spent too long working for local authorities and that he was out of date, deluded and seriously off message. Perhaps folk worried about this sort of thing twenty years ago but in 2014? I don't think so. He told me that he will not speak to me again.

Personally I'm filled with admiration for Mr Tucker and his company, and the way in which they have persuaded the RTPI folk to let them do this. It's the way of the world these days isn't it? We need more enterprising behaviour like this in the wonderful world of planning. I'm sure that David Cameron would be 100% behind it as would our own Wee Smart Alec - PM and FM together!.

So my warm congratulations go out to Stephen and his company for this magnificent piece of self-promotion. The important thing is that they seem to have got away with it! Come to think of it, I might ask them to do a bit of work for Auchterness! That would be a good result for them - wouldn't it? Better still, they might want to employ me as an expert planner! Who knows?

Finally my thanks go out to each and every one of the many thousands of fans who visited my lovely wee blog in March - it's going from strength to strength. You know, it probably has more readers than the Scottish Planner! By the way, if anyone wants to sponsor my blog I'm open to offers! Cheeriebye for now!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

At the Scottish Parliament!

Me at the Scottish Parliament
You know, as one of Scotland's Great Planning Thought Leaders, it was inevitable that I would be invited to the Royal Town Planning Institute's 'RTPI at 100 Reception' at the Scottish Parliament 0n the 26th of March. Of course my modesty ensured that I stayed very much in the background and sadly I wasn't asked to speak. I tried out my contact lenses for the first time which was probably a mistake - not only for reasons of security and identification but because I could hardly see a thing.

It was interesting to rub shoulders with the great and the good although a felt that the majority of folk there were professional layabouts and lounge lizards who haven't done a full days work in years. They wouldn't last five minutes at Auchterness I can tell you!

Anyway I decided to dress in an appropriately sober manner. My green corduroy suit, freshly back from the dry cleaners, was left at home in favour of a dark grey suit with a cream shirt and a tartan tie. Very chic! You can see me to the left of the pillar holding up that silly bit of ceiling that looks as thought it is falling down.  Here's a better view - I seem to be staring at the photographer but I honestly had no idea he was there.

That's me looking at the camera!
Hope you are all having a great week and I'll be back in touch at the weekend with more great planning insights. Cheeriebye for now.