Charles Kennedy spills the beans on how he winds up John Prescott, we find out why Zizou will never get ahead, batty ways to stop planning approval, and a lady’s honour is rescued by some quick thinking

Zizou, Marco and the BCSA

It must be difficult trying to put together a speech that relates the British Constructional Steelwork Association to popular culture. But even so, the effort from Martin Neillson, chairman of the Association of Consulting engineers, at the BSCA annual lunch last week was more than a little bewildering.

“I can tell you the real reason for Zinedine Zidane’s annoyance the other day,” Neillson began promisingly, before swiftly bringing an end to the murmur of excitement that was spreading throughout his audience: “It was because he didn’t get an invite to today’s lunch.” Nobody told us Marco Materazzi was in charge of the invites: nice to see world-class footballers are doing their bit for the industry.

The perils of fame

My colleague Emily Wright enjoyed her cover-girl status last week, but not as much as some of her contacts. At a red wine-fuelled lunch, one keen – perhaps slightly too keen – building surveyor rather brazenly requested that she sign his personal copy of Building with the message, “You’re the best I’ve ever had.” She politely declined and instead scrawled a more wholesome “Thanks for lunch.”

No trouble in Paradise

Developer Grosvenor Estates has been quick to dismiss speculation that Laing O’Rourke is about to leave the massive Paradise Street regeneration scheme in Liverpool after completing its first phase. Despite Balfour Beatty, David McLean and Pierse Contracting having been contracted to carry out “independent site contracts”, project director Rod Holmes assures us this was “envisaged from the outset”. Laing O’Rourke, he adds, which was appointed under a framework agreement for the whole project, will be overseeing a further batch of contracts currently going out to tender.

Credit: Scott Garrett

Bats and Bulls

I hear that Tottenham Hotspur FC is investigating whether there has been any foul conduct surrounding its plans to build a training facility in north London. The club’s application to build the training ground on 21 ha of green belt at Bulls Cross was set to be approved by planners until environmentalists objected that it would endanger bats, newts and other indigenous wildlife. One theory is that angry locals have planted the endangered species on the site in a bid to block the application.

Gondoliers wanted

Cabbies are known for having, how shall I put it, a colourful view of life. My colleague was surprised therefore to hear that Bradford regeneration bosses are recruiting the city’s cab drivers to sing the praises of their radical Will Alsop-inspired redevelopment plans. Given the disruption that building Alsop’s plans, which include running a new canal through the city centre, are going to cause to Bradford’s road network, I wonder whether cabbies will be the best ambassadors …

Just trying to be friendly

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has had his fair share of problems of late, but at least he has managed to remain cheerful throughout. Speaking at the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association annual dinner last Thursday, Kennedy gave a fresh insight into that cheerful persona. Reflecting on John Prescott’s current difficulties, Kennedy confided: “John doesn’t really like Lib Dems … I’ve always made a point of being extremely over-friendly to him, as it winds him up.”