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Archive for the ‘2008’ Category

Were going through turbulent economic times. Financial sages are pontificating that the human race has never seen such global financial turmoil. Could this be a worse crisis than the 30’s depression that opened a door to a world war? When things get this bad the blame starts to fly. The tabloids are gunning for the banking community and the city using a variety of combinations of adjectives and animals from “Greedy Pigs” to “City Fat Cats”. Most people seem to be blaming an “irresponsible banking system” for allowing easy credit and offering subprime mortgages.

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As well as doing the regular visits to the housing developments that HemingwayDesign are involved in I have been visiting developments that have been shortlisted for this year’s Building For Life Awards  (www.buildingforlife.org.uk). You would think that in a depressed housing market like we have been experiencing then developers would be busting a gut to put their “best face forward” to potential customers. (more…)

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Since 2003 we have had a Toyota Prius. Whilst it doesn’t provide a totally sustainable transport solution, my answer to Jeremy Clarkson and its critics is that at least it is a sign that the motor industry is trying to move the agenda forward and is a stepping stone to a fully electric high performance mass market car. I kept nagging Toyota about when they would be bringing out  a people carrier hybrid. They have no plans to but they did have a concept car that they had brought in from Toyota Japan for a motor show that was sitting idle. We have been using it for two years and it’s been brilliant, but sadly it’s had to go back now.

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You can’t hide from the words “credit” “crunch” and the dreaded r word “recession”. These terms seem to get sucked into every news story. The art world is described as “disgustingly decadent” as Damien Hirst’s  pickled sharks sell for millions, when surely this is arts version of Malcolm McLaren’s and The Sex Pistols’ Great Rock and Roll Swindle. It’s a way of prizing out some ill-gotten gains from Russian oligarchs.

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Young families need decent homes. First-time buyers should be given a chance to buy, without needing a fantasy salary increase. Single people, key workers, the elderly – all these people want and deserve a home in a place they like and where they might choose to put down roots.We have a growing population, people are getting married later in life, people are living longer, there is net inward migration we simply need more homes. I want to hear what these people have to say about being given the chance to live in a well-designed, attractive place.

At the moment, the strident voices of those opposed to eco-towns are using every trick in the book to win attention. But what about the people eco-towns are being planned to provide homes for? We need to listen to them too. I understand that for decades this country has been particularly good at delivering great new places to live but as chair of Building For Life I can see that there is a movement towards liveability , quality and sustainability and The Eco Town programme is an opportunity to set examples that could start to put an end to isolated  identikit housing developments in unsuitable locations away from all facilities.

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I’ve had an interesting few weeks sitting on the Eco Towns Challenge Panel. The proposed Eco Town programme has naturally caused a major outbreak (nay plague)  of “nimbyism”. Many of the new towns and settlements the Britain commissioned since the successes of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City are having to have regeneration money lavished on them so it’s no wonder that the public are being so vocal. This is the official description of The Eco Towns Challenge Panel…

“ an independent group of people with expertise in various aspects of urban development. The Panel exists to encourage bidders to improve and develop their proposals to the point where they can be regarded as truly exemplary projects, which fit well within their surroundings, demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development and represent a ‘step change’ beyond what would currently be regarded as best practice”

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I’m 47 and getting close to my “Saga years”. There are signs of age, no hair, a few wrinkles and a dodgy knee but I am still the person I was at 27 and 37. I care about how I look, I care about what I buy, I care about the environment I live in, I have views about the design of everything that I use, from what I eat off, to the transport I use, to the hotels I stay in. In fact my views are getting stronger. As we get older many of us analyze more. Many of us become more discerning, age gives us experience about what is good design, what has been well thought out and what hasn’t.

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