Monday, 10 March 2008

The Councils New Masterplan

Adapted from Hans Christian Andersons`The Emperor`s New Clothes

Not so long ago there lived a council who cared so much for fancy schemes, they spent all the city’s money upon them, and on junkets and on rebranding the city and the like. They gave no thought to their citizens or to the affairs of their city. They had a new idea for every hour of the day and spent most of their time in the pages of the local papers so that everyone might see their wonderful projects.

One day there came to the city a carpetbagger called Manish Chande who had set himself up as a developer. He said he knew how to build the most wonderful development in the world. The materials and the architecture were marvellously beautiful, he said; but this project could not be seen by anyone who was stupid or unfit for their office.

"We must have lots of developments made from these materials and architecture," thought the council. "When the people see the development, we shall know the clever people from the dunces. That developer must be brought to us at once."
So the developer came to the city chambers. The council offered him a land deal so that he might begin his work without delay. The developer immediately set to work. They called for the worst architects, materials and the dodgiest PR firm they could find. They then worked steadily at convincing the city of their terrible plans.

Day after day the council could hear the rattling of the PR machine. They became very curious to see the wonderful masterplan and they decided to send someone to find how the developer and architects were getting on.

But they remembered that no one who was stupid or was unfit for his office
could see how marvellous the development was. "We will send our faithful old Leader Donald Anderson to see it," thought the council. "He is a very clever man, and no one is more worthy of his office than he."

So good old Donald went into the room where the developer and architect sat with the masterplan. He stared and stared, and opened his eyes wide."Mercy on us!" he thought. "It’s monstrous” But he said nothing at all."Come a little closer," coaxed the architect. "Is not this a beautiful masterplan? And the buildings- are they not magnificent?" And he pointed to the concrete blocks. Poor old Donald put on his spectacles and bent over the plans, but he could see only a vision from hell!

"Mercy!" he said to himself. "Is it possible that I am unfit for my office? Certainly no one must know it. Am I a dunce? It will never do to say that I cannot see the beauty!""Well sir, what do you think of it?" asked the developer."Oh, it is charming - beautiful," said Donald, as he peered through his spectacles.

"The buildings are gorgeous and the layout is very fine. I shall tell the council that I am much pleased with your work." "We are very glad to hear you say so," said the developer and architects. And they went on talking of the masterplan. They had named it Caltongate, and described the peculiar layout. Donald listened carefully, for he wished to repeat to the Council all that was said.

Soon the developers began a consultation on the masterplan.
It was a sham but it was useful to say they had done it.

The council then sent an official Alan Henderson and the chair of the planning committee Trevor Davies to see the masterplan. But these men fared no better than their leader. They stood before the monstrous masterplan, and looked and looked and looked, but they didn’t see a beautiful development fitting for the World Heritage Site.

"Is this not magnificent masterplan?" asked the developers. And then they praised the gorgeous architecture and explained how it was a once in a generation opportunity for the city, which it certainly was not.

"Dear, dear!" thought Trevor and Alan. "Surely I am not stupid. It must be that I am unfit for the council." But they did not want to appear so and they praised the beautiful Caltongate."Ah!" said Trevor. "The design is most unusual; and the architecture is marvellous. I shall tell the Council what fine progress you are making."

Then all of the council knew that they must view the marvellous masterplan.They went to view it along with Trevor, Donald and Alan, who thinking that the others would see how monstrous it was, all began to cry out at once, "Look, everyone, do you see the beautiful design? And the buildings- aren’t they gorgeous?”"See!" the developer said. "There are the beautiful buildings! Here is the economic argument! It’s an all or nothing deal. You may act as if this will not affect the world heritage status. That is the beauty of it."

"What is this?" thought the Councillors. They could only see a monstrous development not right for the world heritage site! “Are we not fit to be councillors? Am we dunces? If that were known, we should be deposed.""Yes, yes, it is very pretty," said the councillors aloud. "We could not be better pleased!" They smiled and nodded their heads, and stared at the horrific masterplan.
Their officials too, looked and looked, but saw only what the others saw.

Yet they all cried, "It is marvellous!" And the planners recommended that the council planning committee approve the Caltongate Masterplan.
Soon everyone in the city was talking about Caltongate.
Mountgrange placed ornamental cows around the city with their name on them so everyone could see what wonderful developers they were.

So then the people in the city were allowed to gaze at the masterplan for they too wanted to see the magical Caltongate"How handsome the Councils Caltongate is!" they all cried. "What a perfect fit for the World Heritage Site! What marvellous architecture"

"But it is horrible!" cried a resident in the Old Town."The resident tells the truth," said her neighbours quietly.And the people began to whisper to one another what the resident had said. "It is horrible! A resident says it is horrible!" Soon all the people and the city’s heritage bodies were saying aloud, "But it is horrible!"

And the Council, hearing what they said, shivered, for they knew that their words were true. But it would never do to stop the process; and so they held themselves stiffer than ever.
And behind them, their officials held their heads higher than ever, and took greater pains to justify the Masterplan.

As the day of the committee came nearer, the PR team worked with might and main.
They were never out of the local press. They filled the pages with empty statements and the airwaves with spin.

The Planning Committee’s 15 councillors looked again the masterplan,
and then they held their hands high in the air and approved it. They did not dare let it be known that they saw a vision from hell.

The developers then pretended to listen again, to the local community, while they drew up the detailed plans. They sent out more promotion all over the city. They wined and dined whoever they had to and Alistair Darling gave money towards their underground heating although this will not serve the peoples housing.

"How well the city will do with this new development." says the Chamber of Commerce? "What a becoming style! What beautiful economic arguments! They are indeed fit for the world heritage site!" The Chamber gave the developer Manish Chande a key position, and the architect was told he could redesign the entire city.

In the following year after the masterplan was approved, Donald and Trevor were not re-elected. But alas Trevor carries on his love for Caltongate in the local press from time to time and Donald now works for the developers’ infamous PR firm PPS. Alan Henderson is still in office and has just recommended that the new planning committee approve the individual plans on the 6th of February.
On the 6th February, the new planning committee continued with the pretence, only two of the councillors joined in the cries of the people Cllrs Burgess and Keir
When the new council leader Jenny Dawe was elected in May 2007 she branded designs for the landmark building in the Caltongate development "grotesque and hideous", raising further questions about the future of the £300 million project.Articlehere But now she too is seeing the Council`s New Masterplan -Council leader Jenny Dawe said: "The Caltongate development will breathe new life into a neglected part of the Old Town.".Article