Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Professor Saves Galloway

Larne to Portpatrick Bridge

You know, I've been taking a back seat as far as commenting on the unfolding excellence of developer-led planning in our lovely wee country. It is so successful that I don't need to comment on it - much. All the boxes are ticked, and all the right people are in the right place. Wee Craigie McLaren is compliant, and even Petra Biberbach, the uber-boss of PAS has sided with the development lobby against communities concerning rights of appeal.  It's another smack in the face for the great unwashed. The Barton Willmore Times (aka the Scottish Planner) is on-message. All very satisfactory.

One thing that had me glued to the edge of my seat though was a series of announcements over the last few months about the proposal to connect Scotland to Northern Ireland by a bridge - it's such a fantastic idea and a brilliant act of invention. Isn't it? In my mind's eye, I saw a small person, a rather insignificant man,  perched on a high stool, bent over his papers, lost in the act of creation - a bit like Isambard Kingdom Brunel but without the top hat. I knew immediately that this just had to come from a visionary and a genius.  I wasn't disappointed.

The man behind this is Professor Alan Dunlop who is a leading architect in Scotland and the UK - if not, in the world.  I had a notion that this was the sort of fantastic idea that might have emerged from Aberdeen, my favourite city (in the world) and indeed Professor Dunlop has a strong connection with Aberdeen through Robert Gordon University - fantastic!

It's a totally unique proposal, entirely unlike similar bridges in Denmark, Sweden, France or China. Many of these other bridges carry trains, cyclists and walkers - even gardens, but this bridge is resolutely car friendly - which is good.

The bridge is the sort of future-facing proposal that could make Portpatrick an epicentre of dynamic growth and invigorate the whole south-west Scotland region, giving Dumfries and Galloway an actual reason to exist - which it certainly doesn't have at the moment.   We need more Professor Alan Dunlops.

One thing that disappointed me about this singular and original act of erudition was that Professor Dunlop had asked someone to draw the bridge in a sort of 19th-century etched style which resembles the feverish scratchings of a prisoner in a cell. So antiquated and so out of place in 21st century Scotland.

Anyway, his idea gets a huge gold star in my little black book, and my hearty congratulations go out to Professor 'Isambard' Dunlop and all the newspapers and learned journals who have been uncritically publishing this story regularly for the last six months. Let's build this!