The Flat Roofing Alliance is holding its annual lunch on 20 February, where the awards will be dished out by Paul Hyett, president of the RIBA. There are five categories, including new build and refurbishments of varying sizes, but the category that caught my eye was "best trouble-free roof" award. Given the reputations of flat roofs and the bitumen boiler brigade, I predict that the winner will be less than six months old, or pitched. Another unlikely competition is for "Britain's favourite plumber". Believe it or not, the public genuinely nominates the candidates.
My work here is done
Speculation is rife over who will take over the strategic forum after Sir John Egan departs in June – if, indeed, it remains in its current form.
I gather that the indefatigable Sir John is to become president of the CBI on 21 May, a little earlier than originally thought. I also gather that the former BAA boss is keen to go out with a bang and is planning to publish Rethinking Construction II by June at the latest.
Carl Powell vs the London Eye
Will Westminster's planners try to close London's Eye? Carl Powell, the head of that body, was giving evidence to the House of Commons' urban affairs subcommittee on tall buildings last week, during which he mentioned that his borough would "have an opinion" on the future of the capital's top attraction. This opinion is germane because Lambeth council, in whose bailiwick the Eye resides, is about to hear an application to extend its life, and Westminster is to give evidence to the inquiry.
When asked later what this opinion might be, Powell declined to elaborate. But he is famously opposed to tall structures in the capital and believes that important views should be protected – and the Eye sticks its nose (so to speak) into just about every one going.
Sharper than a serpent's tooth
As those of you who didn't spend last year living with Amazonian indians will be aware, Laing's construction business has been sold to Irish concrete tycoon Ray O'Rourke for less than the price of a hamburger. What you may not know is that City Profile, Laing's PR company, has also been decoupled from the firm.
However you feel about spin doctors in general, spare a thought for Jonathan Gillen, the chap who ran City Profile. After spending more than a year grimly putting the best possible face on one disaster after another, he has lost the account just as things were looking to be on an even keel. Word has it that Bill Forrester, Laing's new executive chairman, noticed that Gillen had been doing his job for 15 years and decided that he wanted a fresh start. People can be so ungrateful.
Don't worry, be happy
I am pleased to be the bearer of good news for once. It seems that lugubrious Leon Krier, the masterplanner of Prince Charles' Poundbury village near Dorchester, has cheered up after 20 years of moping. Krier confided tidings of his newly sunny disposition to the inaugural conference of INTBAU – aka the International Network for Traditional Building Arts and Urbanism. And the reason for his elation? "I can get 50% of what I think the building should be like," he said. This moderate success rate is achieved by Krier's new-found method of project control by fax. So why should this architect be so uncharacteristically modest, you might ask? "One hundred per cent success might be too expensive," he added with admirable candour.
Despite being organised by a public body set up on the same lines as the London Docklands Development Corporation, Dublin has achieved a superior result. Take Clarion Quay, for example. This not only complies with Ireland's new rule that developments must contain 20% affordable homes, but it gives said homes underfloor heating, Italian prefabricated bathroom pods, and polished granite kitchen worktops.
Beat that, British housebuilders!
Mr Hobson adjourns
I gather that we'll soon be saying goodbye to one of the industry's most controversial and colourful characters. John Hobson, construction's Whitehall godfather, is leaving his post at the end of February, a couple of weeks after his colleagues make the hop to the DTI headquarters in Victoria. I don't know what Hobson's plans are. Possibly he intends to tend his cattle at his farm near Nuneaton. And if the nostalgia becomes too intense, I'm sure there will be lots of committees looking for members …
Smoking or non-smoking?
I hear plans for the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station reached some giddy heights last year. It seems that Cirque du Soleil, a theatrical troupe that was backing the project at the time, was planning to put in an exclusive restaurant. This would have been situated on the top floor of one of the chimneys and would have had the splendid panoramic views. Unfortunately, it would have had room for only one table …
… and finally
My congratulations to Alistair McAlpine, who has wed Athena Malpas. The extensive press coverage given to the match amusingly played off the age difference between the two – she's 30 years younger – with their interests in common – such as art history and smashing the evil European superstate. I wish them well in their joint venture.