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
Greg Trickey works for Devon Fire and Rescue
Ron Tate was policy and development manager at Portsmouth council between 1978 and 2001. He now runs his own consultancy and is a vice president of the Royal Town Planning Institute