On these dark February evenings, why not enjoy some light and frothy TV viewing, a pint with a purpose in Bath, or a chance to rewrite social housing policy?

Beware the focus groups

Anyone who works for a housing association will probably want to look away now. Housing insiders tell me they are worried Alan Milburn’s attempts to wreck the social housing sector may yet succeed. The Labour election strategy supremo’s proposal to allow housing association tenants to buy their properties (not exactly one of the central tenets of the Labour movement) had been headed off at the pass by good old John Prescott, who said punters should only be allowed to buy an equity stake (thus not flogging off social housing on the cheap). But sources now fear that Milburn will be able to use pre-election focus groups to prove that nobody will understand Prescott’s more complicated policy, and railroad through his plan anyway. Watch this space.

Always the bad guys …

What is it about this series of BBC1 detective show Dalziel & Pascoe and construction? Two weeks ago, I settled down to watch the series

kick off with a plot about the Private Funding Initiative (sic) and a murder against the backdrop of a new PFI hospital. Then, last week’s effort featured some decidedly dodgy roadbuilders who, in no particular order, throw out kickback payments to council surveyors, attempt to rape an archaeologist, start a fight in a pub and desecrate an archaeological dig. What next? A bunch of bloodsucking architects rampaging across the Cornwall Countryside? A gang of binge-drinking quantity surveyors laying waste to the centre of Chelmsford? Sunday night on the Beeb is neither the time nor the place for such gritty realism.

The bane of Banes

Poor old Bath and North-East Somerset council. Not only is it involved in an interminable dispute with contractor Mowlem and architect Grimshaw over Bath Spa, I’m told it now faces a new and even more determined foe, and one in all likelihood fuelled by a flagon or two of industrial-strength cider. Sean Bentley, landlord of the Pig & Fiddle pub, has devised the crude but effective slogan “Bar the Spa” (see above) for his campaign to halt the troubled project. So far his petition has more than 500 signatures. The only glimmer of hope for Banes’ harassed councillors is that, with elections looming, they’ll probably all have plenty of time to take a good long holiday soon.

Hot off the press

Another excellently packaged press release from those nice people at architect FaulknerBrowns.

As one of the teams shortlisted for the Olympic aquatic centre, the firm was clearly proud of its exciting designs, and duly released four lovely images of said centre from a variety of different angles, with helpful info about the building’s adventurous curving roof. The only slight flaw is that everyone knows that Zaha Hadid has already won the competition. Keep them coming, lads …

Not in front of the guests
Not in front of the guests
There’s nothing like good timing when it comes to entertaining the press. On a recent visit to steel giant Corus in sunny Scunthorpe, one Building writer was treated to a two-hour tour of the company’s site. Everything seemed to be in order until the final stop, the firm’s medium-section mill. Anticipation built as a 63 ft long piece of steel made its way across the rollers, reached the end of its course and … promptly buckled, requiring workers to burn it into sections to remove it from the machinery. “That doesn’t happen often,” said the guide nervously, “and never when we have visitors.”