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Kick-starting the economy — a few thoughts

During the last recession, the Government kick-started construction by providing a large sum of money for affordable housing. It’s taken four years of recession for the present Government to decide to do the same thing and you really do wonder if politicians actually understand the complexities of our society and infrastructure. When such a simple solution worked last time, why has it taken so long to do it again?


The Government also wants to tackle the planning system which they see as part of the problem, but the proposal to fast-track major decisions flies in the face of their commitment to localism. I think the Government needs help, so here are a few suggestions.


Firstly, raise the salaries of middle ranking planning offers that carry considerable responsibility and are central to the planning application process. Yes I thought that would raise a cheer in some quarters. Planning and landscape officers are being made redundant across the country. This is ridiculous. If the government wants to get the economy going, it needs to encourage motivated planners into public service. Rumour has it that one London borough has one planning officer left and no doubt that overworked employee will soon be off with stress. But not to worry, contract staff will be employed to deal with the workload at rates probably twice those of the permanent staff.


Secondly, reinstate the posts of landscape officers. OK, I would say that, wouldn’t I? But local authorities seem to be keeping tree and biodiversity officers but dispensing with landscape officers. Why? We know from the work we get in the practice that many objections from the public are based on landscape impact. The public really care about the public realm and we cannot look at it piecemeal. Landscape architects take a holistic view and are often the one profession that finds a way forward that suits everyone.


And talking of a piecemeal approach, my last suggestion is to give decision makers training to help them give thoughtful, Wholesale NFL Jerseys considered opinions with confidence. Because of the Freedom of Information Act, people seem to be wary of passing an opinion in writing in case it comes back to haunt them. The result is a “tick-box” culture to prove that the issues were considered but this process does not necessarily go hand in hand with the analytical guidance that helps move a project forward practically and economically.


One of our clients recently submitted a scheme in the Midlands. It has come back from the planning authority who expressed regret that it couldn’t be validated, but they did https://www.viagrasansordonnancefr.com/viagra-en-pharmacie/ provide a list of items to be addressed that would make the application acceptable. The list is detailed, informed and constructive, and a great contribution to speeding up the planning process. But this sort of response will only happen more widely if there are well qualified and appropriately paid officers with a “can-do” brief from their politicians.

Just a few ideas. What do you think?


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Saying goodbye and a trip down memory lane

You know when you are getting older when a request comes to contribute to an obituary. My boss at Milner White and Partners, dear Frank Marshall, died in June and the Landscape Institute wanted to mark his passing. Frank was 6’6” tall, gangly, cheerful and one of the most jovial, twinkly-eyed characters you could wish to meet. I worked at Milner White as a student in 1972 and for two years from 1973 to 1975. It was the oldest landscape architecture practice in the UK and, with Frank’s death, a piece of history goes too.

Think Bertie Wooster; being part of the Brooklands set in the thirties, racing cars and playing in jazz bands — Mr Milner White was very well connected and the practice was never without work. Note the ‘Mr’ — I was never allowed to call him by his first name.

The projects would be the envy of any practice today, but with only three of us in the drawing office, a secretary and Frank, the scope of work was unbelievable — power stations, hotels, vehicle test tracks, mineral extraction, crematoria, large gardens (and I mean large!) and water treatment works.

The wood-panelled office above the old coach station in Victoria was so different from our design office today: large double-elephant drawing boards rested on a high table with tall stools; everything was hand drawn, and there were even plans on parchment stored in giant plan chests. We drew on tracing paper or film with Rotring ink pens and revisions or mistakes were either scratched out with a razor blade or rubbed out with a much fought-over electric eraser. As the junior,Wholesale NFL Jerseys it was my job to take the plans down to George’s for printing. This was a disgusting ammonia-based dyeline printing process carried out in an airless basement. As I had to wait for the prints, this was my chance to wander round Chelsea ogling the great and the good.

Old Printing Process

Frank drove up from Kent every day in his Triumph TR6 sports car, arriving at 11am and leaving at 7pm to beat the traffic. We never worked late and every lunch time we had a full hour, frequently having a pub lunch, going swimming, visiting the library or window-shopping at Peter Jones in Sloane Square.

Yes, all very different from today. Of course we rattle through the work quicker and it is more of a meritocracy, but I wonder what we lost along the way. To all you younger people, think about how we work today — it might be you writing about how practice has changed in forty years. Any ideas where we are headed?

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