Archive for It’s only a problem if the public find out

Heroes of planning

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on April 7, 2014 by awickerman

The Royal Town Planning Institute is celebrating, if that is indeed the correct word, it’s centenary and decided to hand out some honorary lifetime memberships. OK technically they did so at the start of the year and it’s taken me this long to get round to it, but to be honest if you want cutting edge analysis you are at the wrong blog.

Anyway, to the point. Given the lamentable level of house building and the ongoing existential question over the future of Britain’s high streets who did they pick? One of the pioneers of the New Towns perhaps or a prolific developer maybe. Surely it would be people who have really improved Britain’s towns and cities through innovative planning and developments.

Of course not, these are Britain’s planners. They picked a selection of tree huggers and unrelated wastrels. To quote the RTPI’s favourites;

Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England; The Lord Deben, Chair of the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change and a former Secretary of State for the Environment; Professor Susan Owens OBE Professor of Environment and Policy, University of Cambridge and Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, Chief of the Policy Analysis Branch of UN-HABITAT and Editor-in-Chief of the Global Report on Human Settlements.

Malcolm Grant is a lawyer who has served as UCL provost and at no point ever done any building or planning, The Lord Deben is better known as the notorious god-bothering, tree hugger John Gummer, Susan Owens does a great deal of work on Environmental Governance which just sounds awful while Naison Mutziwa-Mangiza may well do excellent work at UN-HABITAT, I just can’t find out what on earth UN-HABITAT does, beyond publish reports that no-one reads (apart from Professor Owens and her students. Maybe even they don’t bother, who can tell?)

This I think clearly demonstrates one of the key problems with the British planning system, the planners themselves. They admire environmentalists, lawyers and report writers, not people who actually get things planned and built. This I feel explains why so many of them view a scheme blocked as a bigger achievement than helping a scheme go ahead.

Offshore Wind – Still Tricky

Posted in Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming with tags , , , on January 20, 2012 by awickerman

Round about a year ago I noted the Offshore Wind Accelerator scheme trying to overcome the problems of deep water offshore wind being tricky and noted that in addition to the problems they were trying to solve there would be;

the dozens of other problems they haven’t even thought of yet, because as I said at the top; Offshore Wind – Tricky.

Well one of those other problems has just popped up – scour. The turbine foundations are surrounded by large armour stone blocks and these are sinking, up to 1.5m in some cases, as the sea washes away the sea bed beneath the stones. As the report says;

Lead author Anders Nielsen says the sinking stones are a real problem as they can, ‘reduce the stability of the monopole and change for instance the natural frequency of the dynamic response of an offshore wind turbine in an unfavourable manner.’

To be fair I’m sure it will be solved, in the short term just dropping more stones down every few months will do it, but I’d be very surprised if the solution doesn’t end up being making each turbine more expensive to install, which is probably the last thing an already very expensive form of power needs. Still when was renewable energy ever about providing the consumer with cheap and reliable electricity?

Jesus H Christ

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by awickerman

Are slightly lower CO2 emissions more important than people’s lives? Personally I’d say no, but the Highways Agency thinks differently with their cunning scheme for “Midnight Switch-Off for Motorway Lighting”.

As the name suggests this scheme will see the lights turned off at night as part of their Sustainable Development Action Plan. Had this been a cost initiative that would be bad but, perhaps, understandable. After all putting a value on a human life to assess a safety scheme has a long (if unpublicised) history on the railways,  though I would note the very crucial point it’s used for staff safety not passenger safety. However this is different, this is a sacrifice (probably literally at some point) to the great false gods of sustainable development and global warming.

I’ll leave you with these two utterly contradictory statements from the HA website;

In doing this, safety remains our highest priority.

Which is then proved to be a total lie in the next sentences;

With the extremely low traffic flows at this time of night, the value of having lighting on the motorway is judged to be outweighed by the environmental impact and cost of providing the lighting.  Almost all the safety benefits from motorway lighting occur outside the midnight to 5am period.

Because safety is their highest priority, right up until anything else intervenes.

The US Oil Spill

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by awickerman

I’ve avoided this one as there didn’t seem a lot to say, everyone seemed to be trying to stop it and it probably would be better to wait for the investigation and all the facts to come out. Admittedly that hasn’t stopped politicians mouthing off about blame and so on, but honestly what did you expect? (Actually based on Piper Alpha I had some hopes. That was the disaster were a US firm in the North Sea badly, badly fucked up and killed 70 odd people and didn’t get criticised and threatened with death till after the investigation proved they were guilty as hell. But then American politicians do have an addiction to double standards and hypocrisy)

Anyway I’m commenting on the subject as I’ve recently found out quite how far the US government is going in it’s efforts to make things worse. First off the much hyped ‘Presidential panel’ gathering the finest experts in every field except oil production, therefore denying it of any possible relevant knowledge or experience. Now you may argue you want off-the wall ideas and fresh thinking, it’s a bad argument but you could make it, in which case why censor the panel? Now professor Katz does appear to be thoroughly unpleasant (complete with a Brass Eye-esque belief in good/bad AIDS) but someone must have thought he was an expert worth consulting, yet he was instantly dropped once it emerged he was a arse. So either this is a genuine utter disaster where you need everyone OR you can drop him as it’s not that bad, in which case tone down the rhetoric and threats.  Is consistency so much to ask?

The second point is if anything much worse as it damn near had a practical impact. To disperse oil you need a dispersant and in general they are not especially nice chemicals, hence why they all need EPA approval. The BP choice Corexit has been on the EPA list for over 20 years and was used on the Exxon Valdez spill and dozens since so is a well understood and tested choice, hence it was stockpiled in vast quantities on the Gulf Mexico in preparation for any problems. So what happened a few days into this spill? A few previously anonymous politicians and green groups (well I’d never heard of them) started whining about it and eventually got the EPA to threaten a ban. Ignoring the annoyance that anyone took them seriously you do have to ask why now? Are the US government actually trying to make things worse or do they genuinely think Louisiana will look nicer with a nice skim of oil on it? (On which note I also found out that 80%+ of state revenues in that state come from the oil industry, I therefore sincerely hope the fisherman who turn on the news get their wish and the industry is banned. I think mass unemployment and even larger taxd bills would be a just punishment for their ill-informed whining.)

So there you go, a tad more proof of Regan’s old saw

The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Stedfastly Refusing to Learn – Russian Edition

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2010 by awickerman

In engineering certain problems are only obvious after they’ve happen, put brutally someone has to make the mistake before anyone knows there is a problem. This is unfortunate but a fact of life. However after the new problem emerges, is publicised and even turns up in secondary school lessons as the classic example there is no excuse whatsoever for making the same mistake again.

Today’s example of this steadfast refusal to pay attention is; The Volgograd Bridge. If the scene of a wildly oscillating bridge looks familiar, that’s probably because it looks a lot like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which happened in 1940. And it’s not even like Tacoma was a one off freak, half a dozen or so bridges had excess movement and those were just the reported ones, countless others fell over but weren’t caught on camera so aren’t famous.

Now admittedly it’s one of the longer bridges in Russia, but by international standards it’s nothing special, indeed there are even bridges in Russia that are almost twice as long. There really is therefore no excuse for making such a bugger up unless there is something fundamentally wrong with your design and engineering culture. Mind you that’s probably a given as it took 13 years to build it, even in bad conditions that was at worst a five year job, indeed as the second bridge (for the other carriageway) isn’t open yet it is technically took “13 years and counting” to build.

I have saved the best till last, after this embarrassing mistake what has the reaction been? They closed it for a few days to check it out, but have now re-opened it with a clean bill of health and without modification, save for one change; a monitoring system to close the bridge if it gets windy! If that isn’t a vote of confidence I don’t know what is. This will end in tears, mark my words.

A Night in the Life of a Tunnel Engineer

Posted in Irregular Features, Rantings, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by awickerman

Last nights work or, as it could also be called; Why everything on the railways costs an utter fortune. The one fact you need to know before reading is this, whenever you work on the railway you need to be accompanied by a COSS, the man responsible for making sure you don’t die.

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A quick one

Posted in Almost Beyond Words with tags , , , , , on May 10, 2010 by awickerman

This is beautiful. Compare the headline;

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

With the correction further down;

Due to an editorial error, the original image associated with this Letter was not a photograph but a collage. The image was selected by the editors, and it was a mistake to have used it.

Their ‘mistake’ being to use a blatantly photoshopped, but far more dramatic, picture in the first draft. Not exactly a stunning argument in favour of the rigour of global warming scientists, I mean it looks a lot like the pro-warming mob just pick the worst possible photos and then tweak them to support their arguments. Not that they’d ever do that with facts, scientific data, computer models, temperature records or anything else, heaven forbid…

Still nice to see that ‘Collage’ is the new polite word for ‘Fake’, I’ll have to remember that next time I need to manipulate something for my own benefit. “It’s not falsified data, it’s just a collage of the facts.”

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