Is Jo Negrini, the council’s £187,000 per year chief executive, preparing to quit her job and take up a new career in stand-up comedy?
That’s one conclusion drawn from the news that later this month she is to venture forth into deepest east London (well… Haggerston) to chair a debate about the stifling over-regulation of the local authority planning system.
It’s not as if Negrini hasn’t got enough on her plate to deal with in her day job, after all. There’s the stalled Westfield development in the town centre, repeat visits from Ofsted inspectors still anxious about the state of the borough’s children’s services department, the delayed £30million refurb of the Fairfield Halls, the worst performing primary schools in London, oh… and a pre-election Council Tax decision to be sorted.
Undaunted, Negrini – Hon FRIBA, donchaknow – is finding the time to go off to the heart of Hipsterdom to rub shoulders with her architect chums and devote an evening to an event which its organisers describe thus:
“The intersection of design and democracy should be an exhilarating moment of civic and spatial richness. Instead British architecture is blockaded by a byzantine planning culture at best onerous and at worst corrupt. Feckless backseat-designer planning officers take out their churlish frustrations on the smallest of schemes, demanding ill-conceived arbitrary alterations bleeding the vivacity from our streets and homes as vast bland monocultural developments are nodded through. Nostalgia for a brief era of post-war planning heroics is hopeless.
“Given anarchic freedom we created the Georgian great estates. Given paternalistic planning we created Taylor Wimpey.
“Fire the planners and tear up the rule book – anarchy for the UK.”
Does Tony Newman and his Gang of Four in the Town Hall realise there’s a potential architectural anarchist on the loose in Fisher’s Folly?
As the former head of Croydon’s planning department, Negrini might be expected to defend the reputation of “feckless backseat-designer planning officers”, as she presides over a panel which includes a property investor, an urban designer working at the GLA, the co-founder of an “architecture and art collective”, and “an outspoken Marxist critic of the British planning system”.
Tickets for this not-to-be-missed event are £8.
The organisers, Turncoats, seem to have the measure of this kind of event. “Architecture debates are rubbish,” they say.
“We’ve all been there: a panel of similar people with similar views taking it in turns to talk at length about their similar work – too polite, too deferential, too dull. At best they are lukewarm love-ins, critically impotent, elitist and stuffy.”
Turncoats promise something different. “Framed by theatrically provocative opening gambits, a series of debates will rugby tackle fundamental issues facing contemporary practice with a playful and combative format designed to ferment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.”
In the past, they’ve described RIBA – the Royal Institute of British Architects, the body which pompously doled out that honorary fellowship to Negrini – as “a stagnant, antiquated, and irrelevant institution which demonstrably fails to enrich the lives or practice of architects anywhere”.
Has anyone told Negrini?
The event is “at a secret venue” on January 25. If you want to find out more about the Croydon CEO’s comedy debut, click here.
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