This week: the usual mix of culled councillors, seductive sites, awkward architects, mystified ministers, sexist Scotsmen and light-fingered locksmiths
Opportunity locks
A colleague of mine was tempted to change jobs recently when an unsolicited email flashed up on his screen. The communication was headed: "Locksmithing Is One Profitable Career!" and it attempted to lure recipients into investing in a course from the Locksmith Video School. On reading the email, it was obvious why this career was so lucrative: the second lesson was entitled "Lock Picking" and included such sections on preparing the lock for picking, picking techniques, and pick selection.

Kick out the jams
I hear that Terry Fuller, director of partnering at Taylor Woodrow, has chosen to reveal his cure for Britain's sclerotic planning system. It was, he told a seminar at this month's London Housing Strategy Conference, simply a matter of taking the councillors out of the decision-making process once a planning policy has been adopted.

"Individuals should not be allowed to further slow down the planning process," he said to his audience of – among other people – councillors. As he uttered the words, Fuller visibly steeled himself to meet a hail of angry objections, but the audience only nodded mildly. Maybe Lord Falconer should have gone further after all.

Brand new concept
When the public sees a building covered in scaffolding, they probably consider it an eyesore. But the suits at banner advertiser Megaposter see it as something worse – a wasted advertising opportunity. To prove its point, the company commissioned a survey that concluded – surprise, surprise – that 71% of people want to see giant banner ads on scaffolding. If there is branding to be done, there's one obvious campaign for the sites – the government's anti-cowboy quality mark – although one suspects the public might prefer something involving underwear.

All my love, Tess xx
Transport is not the only ministry to be faced with a public relations challenge. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport had to cope after all four of its ministers were cleared out last June. But by contrast with the DTLR's obsession with burying things, the DCMS has decided to show us some lurve. Journalists at an official drinks reception at the department's headquarters next to Trafalgar Square last week were bemused to find themselves the target of amorous advances, including balloons and silver-wrapped chocolates decorated with red hearts.

"We're the Department for Fun and Free Time," gushed secretary of state Tessa Jowell. "I hope the values we share will always unite us." Some chance.

British designers scored four at the American Institute of Architects' awards in London. But, more than that, they revealed the secret of winning an American prize: do the opposite to your sponsors.

Introducing those shortlisted for greatness, arts development consultant Rory Coonan, praised American architects for their pragmatism. After that, prizes were presented to Patel Taylor for Thames Barrier Park, Richard Rogers Partnership for 88 Wood Street, Wilkinson Eyre for the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and Zaha Hadid for the transport interchange in Strasbourg.

As she accepted her award, an ebullient Hadid underlined the bleeding obvious. "This is not the Royal Family of pragmatism," she said.

And thank you, Mr Wislon
It was nice of Brian Wilson, construction's occasional minister, to spare the time to attend the annual dinner of Electrical Contractors Association at London's Grosvenor House Hotel last week. It was a pity, though, that he couldn't remember who had invited him. Throughout his speech, the minister kept referring to an organisation called the Electricity Contractors Association.

Women, eh?
A flyer from QS Cyril Sweett reminded me that even in the 21st century, some people still do not understand what gender stereotyping means. The leaflet promotes the firm's involvement in the redevelopment of St Andrew Square in Edinburgh – a project that will involve the construction of a Harvey Nichols store. It finishes with the phrase: "The arrival of these retailers may see us tartan-clad gentlemen feeling slightly giddy upon seeing our partners gleefully heading off towards them, clutching our credit cards."

Er, and how wide is the track?
Following the Millennium Bridge disaster, British engineering has some way to go to restore its reputation. And I hear that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link isn't helping much. An engineer informed me that her head office had an email from someone who had been working on the project for several months, asking what the dimensions of Eurostar train were, as nobody at their end was quite sure. Still so keen on that trip to Paris?

Carry on quantity surveying
Residents of a housing estate in Greenwich must have been disturbed to receive a letter recently from project manager Faithful & Gould. The correspondence informed them that the firm would be calling round to survey their windows on a particular date. Worryingly, the letter went on to say that if this time was incontinent they should contact the office to arrange another.