This week, we reveal the Shard developer’s early attempts to gain help from a higher power, Barratt seeks the assistance of a brick disguised as a baby, and a minister flounders at the Fabian Society

A lack of planning

Last week’s Fabian Society lecture with John Hutton, minister for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), was tantalisingly entitled “Renewable Energy and Local Authority Planning”. Hutton claims the planning system needs radical reform, but when he was quizzed about rumours that the government was to scrap the Merton Rule, whereby councils demand that new developments generate some energy from onsite renewables, he confessed to not being fully aware of the issue. Maybe it’s time for some joined-up thinking between BERR and the communities department …

Everybody’s favourite guest

At least one non-executive director can expect a lukewarm reception at Persimmon’s next get-together. The housebuilder, whose share price was the sector’s biggest victim of the Northern Rock saga, counts among its directors one Adam Applegarth – the mortgage lender’s chief executive.

Highway robbery

Theft of materials is the bugbear of every site manager, but until now the problem has rarely jeopardised national security. A series of “aluminium thefts” from the Highways Agency may have changed all that. Apparently, the agency has installed a network of emergency traffic signs around London that appear to just be plain, grey boxes – until there’s a terrorist attack, that is, when they swing into action, directing traffic away from the capital. Well, they would, if the poles that support them hadn’t gone missing. The war on terror is clearly fought on many fronts.

Credit: Scott Garrett

Help from above

It seems every do my colleagues tell me about these days is alive with talk about “western Europe’s tallest building”, the Shard at London Bridge. After it emerged last week that the tower required a new financial backer, word reached me of a possible solution. Apparently, an early plan was for the top of the 310m tower to house a vast chapel that would have been taller than St Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, I hear the Church of England gave the plan short shrift. Shame, as developer Irvine Sellar would presumably welcome some divine intervention right now.

Roman architecture

First José Mourinho, now it seems architect HOK has had a parting of the ways with Roman Abramovich. Apparently, the Chelsea owner recently wined and dined one of HOK’s health team in Moscow, hoping to commission a private hospital for “new” or, in the common parlance, “stinking rich” Russians, but unfortunately the partnership came to nothing. Rumours that Abramovich plumped for a little-heard-of Israeli outfit instead could not be confirmed as Building went to press.

Bricks and daughter

Mark Clare, Barratt’s chief executive, sounded horrified earlier this year when asked if he planned to resurrect the TV advertising campaign, featuring a green and white helicopter, that turned his company into a household name in the seventies. The reason for his mortification is now clear: Barratt had a much better idea. The housebuilder has just launched an advertising campaign featuring, not helicopters, but bricks dressed as babies which eager “parents” give Barratt to lovingly nurture and build new houses with. Presumably, the next step is to get Gordon Brown to further emulate Baroness Thatcher by snapping up a Barratt home, as the Iron Lady famously did in 1988.