Contrary to what Owen Luder wrote last month, his Portsmouth shopping centre was ripe for demolition, simply because it failed in so many ways
So, Owen Luder advocates an abuse of the process of listing buildings in order to have given special consideration to his ill-fated Tricorn (21 May, page 39). This is reminiscent of the old habit of giving ancient monument status to Ministry of Defence buildings to afford them greater protection than normal listing. And he suggests that the decision to demolish it was taken with undue haste, but this is far from the reality. The debate over the Tricorn's future lasted 38 years, ever since its completion in 1966.

The building's immediate commercial failure contributed to the collapse of the empire of Alec Coleman, the original developer. It was picked up by the Freshwater Group, trading as Newprop, in 1969. After three years, their marketing particulars showed that fewer than half the shop units were occupied and many of those were let to the service sector – dry cleaners, travel agents, and snack bars. Later additions included catalogue shopping and a three-unit builder's office. The two pubs closed after only a few years.

The labyrinth of alleyways diffused the available footfall and, even when a three-day market was introduced into the heart of it, some units were never let. The lack of income contributed to a lack of maintenance and remedial work.

Luder seeks to cast blame for the failure of the first-floor wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the city council, the sub-tenant. True, the market worked well initially, until Covent Garden was moved to a less congested location where shopkeepers from south-east Hampshire could get to in the early morning to buy fresh produce without the cost of double handling. And the access ramps, which were suitable only for vehicles with short wheelbases, meant the stores were unattractive to many alternative users.

Quite where the responsibility lies for this lack of foresight – client or designer – may be lost in time. What is clear is that bigger ramps would not have produced the same visual impact.

Siting the nightclub on the top of the development proved ill-advised. People leaving the nightclub in the small hours had to go by way of deserted parking band service decks, which created significant personal danger. It is little wonder patrons preferred to go elsewhere.

The flats were condemned as soon as they were occupied and the remedial works needed to solve the damp problems, created by the curtain wall glazing and cold bridging, were always judged to be uneconomic. The only residents soon became the city's largest pigeon colony.

Then there was the multistorey car park. And yet again, there were major drawbacks. Puddles formed over large areas and staircase landings had unavoidable standing water. And the design of the lift towers prevented new cars being inserted that would have provided for greater capacity for families with pushchairs and bags.

The best opportunity for the Tricorn's long-term retention came with the Cascades development in the early 1980s, but five years of negotiation between Taylor Woodrow Chippindale and Newprop failed to reach an agreement. The current unit size requirements of retailers suggests that TWC may, with hindsight, be happy that Newprop walked away.

So the case for the Tricorn retention centres on its sculptural qualities. Given its prime location on the entrance to the city central shopping area, rather than enhance the attractiveness of the centre, it blighted it for 38 years. The evidence suggests it was not fit for purpose and did not stand the test of time. This would seem sufficient reason for not listing it.

Trickey’s situations: The diary of a Devon property manager

We have been informed by the delightful people at the Environment Agency that one of the sites we have chosen for a fire station in Exeter is in a high-risk area and is likely to be flooded severely once every 50 years. Being ahead of the game, my fire colleagues in upper management have asked for the first-floor balcony to have an opening gate and ladder so that boats can moor. I countered that we should include a bar so that we could become a yacht club, which fell on deaf ears. Unfortunately, another member of our monthly drinking club has decided to leave Devon. Geordie Dave, he of the conservatory-the-size-of-the-Eden-Project, has been tasked with looking after the electricity supply of the Isle of Man. Dave is very keen on conserving the planet and was inspired by Jeremy Clarkson’s experiment of replacing light bulbs with gherkins. Apparently, they glow for a bit and then explode. He’s also obtained good results making homemade canons using and a domestic rubbish bin and custard powder. To those living on the Isle of Man and enjoy eating gherkins, I would suggest you stock up now before Dave gets there. Also, if you find your office illuminated with a purple greenish haze followed by acrid smell, you have been warned. We wish Dave and his family the best of luck on their move.

Greg Trickey works for Devon Fire and Rescue