All posts from: July 2010
Staff at Bath & North East Somerset Council got the chance to live out their tabloid dreams with an orgy of puns this month after a Bath resident pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a noise abatement notice.
‘Noise action success in “Thriller” court case’ led a council press release after Andrew Smith admitted to rapping along to Michael Jackson tunes at all times of day and night.
‘Michael Jackson might be one of the greatest musicians of the modern era, but there is no excuse to be ‘Bad’ to your neighbours and ignore requests to stop noise nuisance,’ added environmental health officer John Harvey. See what he did there?
At the beginning of the month Closed Circuit reported that footballer Gary Neville had been refused planning permission for what opponents dubbed the ‘tellytubbies home’.
Now another celebrity, Blackadder actor Rowan Atkinson, has reportedly upset the locals with plans to replace his existing Oxfordshire home with a futuristic style house complete with transparent walkway.
The Telegraph reported a neighbouring farmer declaring, ‘The house will look like an ugly space age petrol station’. Sounds like the thesp may need to come up with a very cunning plan.
The inefficiency of London’s Tube network threw up all sorts of challenges for participants in Inside Housing’s efficiency roundtable, held at the Park Lane Hilton hotel last week.
Elaine Elkington, strategic director of housing and constituencies at Birmingham Council, and Hugh Broadbent, chief executive of First Choice Homes Oldham, travelled across the country to attend the lunchtime event only to discover the underground system in disarray when they reached London.
John McPeake, director of design and property services for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, meanwhile, got stuck at Belfast Airport, missing the chaos on the underground. Needless to say, when discussing ways to make the housing sector more efficient, nobody in the group used Transport for London as an example of best practice.
There was excitement at the Communities and Local Government department, not renowned for its electric atmosphere, last week when David Cameron dropped in to give staff a pep talk on his ‘big society’ plans.
To mark the prime minister’s first visit to Eland House, communities secretary Eric Pickles ordered his staff to put on a little show. Thus Mr Cameron was greeted by a host of civil servants chanting, ‘Localism, localism, localism’. It’s the stuff big societies are made of, folks.
Closed Circuit was looking forward to attending what was billed as an ‘open discussion’ about the future of housing this week featuring bigwigs from the government, Homes and Communities Agency and National Housing Federation, among others.
Organised by CPPS Seminars, the event at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London was, unfortunately, closed to the press - unless we stumped up £200 that is. Even then, Closed Circuit was told it would have had to follow ‘Chatham House rules’ meaning that it was banned from attributing quotes.
As a CPPS employee explained, ‘you can go away and tell people what the speakers said, but just not write about it’.
The CPPS website boasts that it aims for its events to be of the ‘highest quality and value’; quality it presumably feels would be compromised by letting people unable to attend its seminars know what was discussed.
So Zenna Atkins is to give up the chair of mega housing association Places for People.
No sooner had she announced her intention to stand down last week than she was sticking her head above the parapet elsewhere.
The Sunday Times reported Ms Atkins, who is also chair of education watchdog Ofsted, saying ‘every school should have a useless teacher’.
Emphasising that she was speaking in a personal capacity, she reportedly added, ‘one really good thing about primary school is that every kid learns to deal with a really sh*t teacher’.
Ms Atkins is to relinquish the Ofsted chair next month. Could we be in for a similarly frank exchange over housing before she leaves PfP at the end of August?
Working for a homelessness organisation must be a real headache at the moment, with cuts and threats of cuts to money for services coming left, right and centre.
But it seems the staff at Thames Reach are offered a novel way of relieving tension.
Chief executive Jeremy Swain recently tweeted he’d had a ‘relaxing head massage from our regular office masseur’. Lucky staff at Thames Reach. Closed Circuit is thinking of putting in a bid for an office masseur at Inside Housing HQ.
Private equity firm 3i recently wined and dined the heads of housing associations and house builders at a dinner event to discuss opportunities in the housing sector.
This was interpreted by at least one attendee as an indication that the firm is considering investing in social housing. But when Inside Housing contacted it, we were told 3i had no specific interest in investing in the sector. One can only assume 3i decided the chief executives were in need of a good meal ahead of likely cash cuts in the recent emergency Budget.
It seems the planning world has spawned its own version of Who do you think you are? - the television show in which ‘slebs trace their ancestry and go all misty eyed over their adorably humble beginnings (at least Sarah Jessica Parker did in a recent episode).
The Town and Country Planning Association is to hold an evening of ‘art and music’ to trace the last 30 years of planning history (sic).
‘Our past values which were openly artistic, collectivist and co-operative are now little more than a distant memory. In essence, this event is about remembering and celebrating our origins,’ trills the marketing puff. Who do they think they are indeed?
The government is asking council workers for ideas on how to cut money from their local authority operations - and has set up a new website to do it.
There’s no indication of how much the new ‘spending challenge’ website cost to set up, but it includes a video message and motivational quote from David Cameron, saying: ‘Don’t hold back. Be innovative, be radical, challenge the way things are done.’ What a clever way to spend money.
The English football team may be a national joke following their 4-1 drubbing by Germany.
But at last week’s Chartered Institute of Housing conference, Welsh contractor Trevor Graham told delegates he had ditched the idea of starting his speech with a few cracks about the side.
Speaking at the ‘doing more with less’ session on Thursday afternoon, the managing director of G Purchase Construction admitted noting down a few comments about England’s narrow win over Slovenia the previous day.
But, he explained, he left his notes behind at the hotel when he remembered it had been quite some time since Wales had even qualified for the tournament. The Welsh football team did manage to get to the Euro quarter-final in 1976 - but has not qualified for the World Cup since 1958.
Somehow, Closed Circuit feels the joke is still on England.
If England’s dismal performance at the World Cup wasn’t enough, there was more disappointment for one of the team’s former players last week.
Manchester United defender Gary Neville had his application to build an underground home, complete with wind turbine, refused by Bolton Council.
Dubbed ‘the tellytubbies home’ for its unusual petal-shaped design, it fell victim to a vociferous campaign by local opposition groups.
It’s not the first time Mr Neville’s domestic arrangements have caused a stir. Last year the Daily Mail described a hedge in his current garden, clipped to form the initials of his club, as ‘taste-free’.
Christine Whitehead, professor of housing at the London School of Economics, clearly has no truck with the desire to protect greenbelt land.
At a session at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Harrogate last week she said some green areas clearly need to be protected but that some were screaming out to be developed.
‘I have been trying to call greenbelt “badly managed scrub land” for some time,’ the professor revealed.
She reckons changing the name will change nimby attitudes - but it seems unlikely. ‘Not on my badly managed scrub land’ hardly has the same ring to it, after all.