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!

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