One Man’s Grand Design For London



Meet Colin Wilson, director of the Planning Decisions Unit of the Greater London Authority. They would have a man named Colin. I wanted to find out more about him, and discovered that he recently ran a seminar, billing it like this:

Urbego mini training course trainer: Colin Wilson, Startegic Planning Manager at Greater London Authority.

That should ring alarm bells. If the man in charge of London’s skyline can’t spell his own job title, we’re in deep trouble. Colin’s no longer running mini training courses, he’s doing some startegic planning instead, in charge of sticking up lots of glass boxes around London – 230 of them – and there’s a very funny Guardian article about these buildings of ‘breakfast-extracting ugliness’ here. Of course it’s all about flogging luxury space to foreigns, regardless of London’s formerly unique character.

After the Blitz, the City of London employed two police constables full time to take pictures of all the burned-out buildings. Arthur Cross and Fred Tibb built up a complete record of what needed to be reconstructed, so that planners could take into consideration height, bulk and materials.

Mr Wilson doesn’t give a toss about this, but attempts (and fails) to dress up his decisions thusly;

“It is simply not true to say these towers haven’t been planned. They have been very carefully planned. But we prefer to use a flexible framework, rather than a rigid master plan.’

So they haven’t been planned then.

The council’s development monkey can now set about dropping thuggish glass stumps wherever he wants. Usually they have something bolted onto them that’s hilariously intended to give them ‘character’. Last year’s fashion was upright coloured glass panels. This year’s fashion is spiky rooftop knives, thus lending each tower the elegance of an orthopaedic boot attached to a withered foot.

I’d post a photo of Mr Wilson but I don’t want anyone shooting him. He’s probably a very nice man, hopelessly, terrifyingly out of his depth.

And yes, this piece is another excuse to run a horrible picture of the Strata building, in Sarf London. You know, the one with the turbines that don’t work. The one that looks like an owl mated with an electric razor.

6 comments on “One Man’s Grand Design For London”

  1. snowy says:

    Poor old Colin, he’s not a Director though, only a Grade 13 Senior Manager [Key Strategic Responsibilties:- Paper clips and Post-it notes] on £79k. So it’s no surprise he needs to top up his pay packet. [Simon Grinter, Head of Toilet rolls and Light bulbs gets more than him.]

    I am surprised, it’s not like the Guardian to put out a piece of journalism without checking their facts first, is it?

    The real big cheese is Fiona Fletcher-Smith, [hubby works as a Director of Investment and Strategy for Tower Hamlets Homes.]

    Most of the blocks in the linked article look dull, but some are just horrible. It’s a shame the BBA blog isn’t still running they’d have a field day with that lot.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    “a flexible framework, rather than a rigid master plan”… sounds a bit like urban cancer. Maybe, that’s the problem with London now: its mutating. It has got so old, its master plan is moribund (def. #2, if you please.)

  3. Helen Martin says:

    No one (except the thousands of tourists) expects London to look the same forever but this is high end madness. I don’t understand the London governance system but surely planning should be regional- Greater London, does it exist? This sounds incoherent but that’s the feeling I have. Thousands and thousands of expensive flats but where are the reasonable homes for working people? Truly digestion disrupting. Why aren’t there street marches?

  4. Steve Nagel says:

    Startegic. Nice. And then there’s the tractical. And the fillowsophical.

  5. snowy says:

    There in lies the problem, Greater London is vast and even with the best will in the world it is impossible to keep all the snouts out of a trough that big.

    Odd things have happened before, the Centre Point tower was built in a prime location near Oxford street, and sat empty for years. [People got so fed up of it being empty, it was even ‘stormed’ by some students lead by a newt fancier called Ken …er something, what ever happened to him?]

    And whole books have been written about the doings of Sir Jack Cohen’s little girl, one was turned into a rather fine black comedy play called ‘Shirleymander’, [available at the more select librarys as an e-book, it’s not a book but a full cast recording, but they call it a book, or as a download from them! You know tax-dodgers named after a big river.]

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    I’d like to say it’s the money but as Dubai has shown it’s the promise of money. All eyes are on a sparkling future, not the current financial problems. It’s like the Victorian rail building craze.

    In Manchester we’re not as bad, but planning is a haphazard at best, there are always tall cranes across. The Hilton (Beetham Tower) is a drear building, the outside made to look like it’s permanently wet so that fits in with Manchester, but the blade on top was designed to make the building disappear into the clouds, even without the red lights for air traffic it doesn’t work, it looks like a big fence on one side of the building. It adds a touch of idiocy to this cantilevered dull looking building.

    If you like tall building here’s a good cite

    The Council of Tall Building and Urban Habitat.

    London has now lost the Euro crown for tallest buildings, it’s gone to Moscow which now boasts some of the ugliest buildings to compete with London. Although St. Petersburg is due to take the crown.


Comments are closed.