While Cher enlivens a civil engineering show and jungle beasts cause alarm at a hacks’ awards party, a spot of pier pressure is applied in Brighton
Pier to stay?
Take a deep breath – the redevelopment of Brighton’s West Pier may be back on. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth last year when developer St Modwen finally gave up trying to convince the more conservatively inclined members of the town that it would be better to redo the pier than leave it a smouldering ruin. Now, my spies tell me, the good old West Pier Trust is talking to a number of developers who, it seems, are proposing a refurbishment that respects the original
19th-century design. Good news then – or at least more encouraging than elsewhere in the town. Last month Wilkinson Eyre’s Brighton Marina scheme was blocked by the council, and the wailers and gnashers are fearful that Frank Gehry’s landmark King Alfred leisure centre scheme could have its wings clipped. Whatever happened to the city’s sense of adventure?
A lesson in high finance
Everyone now knows that PFI contracts can lose you a lot of money and, even at the best of times, construction margins are tight. But it would seem that the industry has known this for years. In the early days of PFI, the process was apparently known as PPI (“Put Plenty In”) because contractors used to guesstimate construction costs on the high side. If anything then went wrong there was a cushion; if not, then they made lots of money. Cunning.
A hug for Higgins
English Partnerships had a stormer of a night at this week’s Regeneration Awards, scooping Regeneration Agency of the Year as well as a special award for its indomitable Scots chair Margaret Ford, who was named Regeneration Champion of the Year. Ford, who was in a state of high excitement, was the star of the show as she ran up on stage to hug outgoing chief exec
David Higgins, and then almost died laughing at comedian Jon Culshaw’s admittedly bang-on impression of John Prescott’s linguistic gymnastics. Ford, incidentally, will be filling in as chief executive of the agency until a replacement is found for Higgins in the new year. Internal and external candidates will be considered.
The good ship Lancelot
Not much work going on at QS Gleeds this week, as the management team spend an anxious few days watching their sponsored yacht Lancelot take on all comers in the transatlantic Global ARC challenge from Gran Canaria to St Lucia. The 40 ft Gleeds boat was leading a fleet of 250 as Building went to press and is being tracked hourly by the managing partners on the internet. Should Lancelot come first there will be no shortage of partners willing to welcome the boat home in the St Lucian sunshine. However, if their somewhat floundering performance in the Building-Gleeds pool tournament is anything to go by, Lancelot will do well merely to stay afloat …
Atomic warfare and Cher
There was much to do at the Civils 2005 show at London’s Olympia exhibition centre, from visiting the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s stall to watching videos of Italian heavy machinery soundtracked by Cher classics. But opening the show, Institution of Civil engineers president Gordon Masterton seemed to have other things on his mind. “Please circulate, communicate and connect,” he said from halfway up a staircase in the middle of the auditorium. “This is a place to meet old friends and a place to make new friends. It’s a place to find a new job …” Hmmm, is the ICE president trying to tell us something?
The lions of the press
Well done to all this year’s winners – including no fewer than five (count ‘em) Building journalists – at the property and construction hacks’ annual knees-up, the IBP awards. These occasions are always hotbeds of contention, but this year the main controversy revolved around the pre-awards dinner. Rather worryingly, the meat-eaters’ main course was described as “piccata of Welsh lamb lion”, immediately conjuring up images of ruthless IBP operatives plundering the nation’s zoos in the name of feeding ungrateful journalists. Before we could call the RSPCA, however, it was pointed out that it probably should have read “loin”.