So, how were Councillors on the Executive Committee of Glasgow City Council persuaded to sell the Park Quadrant site to Expresso for £6.3m?
A bit of background before explaining in detail.
- In October 2014, City Property, a relatively unaccountable ‘arm’s length organisation’ marketed the site for residential development and 11 bids were received from developers.
- These 11 where whittled down to four by a process which allegedly gave 60% weight to planning and design and 40% to the price offered. A problem immediately arises – how do you compare apples and oranges?
- What information has been prised out of City Property by FoI requests is inconsistent, with responses to different but overlapping FoI requests giving different perecentages and an overall stubborn refusal to provide any further information about either how scoring criteria were applied or by whom.
- Meanwhile, a ‘Design Panel’ had been set up, with representatives from the Council, the Glasgow Institute of Architects, Historic Scotland, the Landscape Institute, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Architecture and Design Scotland, and, crucially, “amenity groups’ such as the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Friends of Glasgow West, the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust and Scottish Civic Trust.
- The four bidders selected made presentations to this Design Panel last March and consensus was rapidly reached over which proposal was preferred in terms of design, and it was not Expresso’s.
- However, the Panel was asked not to make any recommendation and panel members were given to expect a further presentation of amended designs which would take account of their detailed written observations to the prospective developers. The notes concerning Expresso’s design (http://pawh.org.uk/…/2…/03/GUDP_05032015_Report_Espresso.pdf) are worth quoting from: “Ideas shown for a flamboyantly profiled penthouse roof contributing to the area’s roofscape were to be welcomed, but were very much work-in-progress and would need further refinement if a schizophrenic relationship to the stone façade below was to be avoided.”
- The Design Panel had obviously noticed that what has become known as the ‘wonky roof’ ever since the public consultation exercise did not sit well with the rest of the design of the front elevation.
Things then started to move rather quickly. Before the Design Panel could see the modified proposals they had expected, a report, the ‘dodgy dossier’ (http://pawh.org.uk/…/Glasgow-City-Council-Report-by-Executi…), went to the City Council’s Executive Committee on 28 May last year.
The report is by the Managing Director of City Property (Glasgow) LLP but was tabled by the Council’s Executive Director of Development and Regeneration Services. It is very cleverly written and, at paragraphs 3.3 to 3.5, states:
3.3 ” … The four parties then had the opportunity to take advantage of this feedback before presenting to a special sitting of the Glasgow Urban Design Panel (GUDP) on 5th March 2015 where verbal feedback was provided to each design team by panel members (made up of design specialists in their field and local amenity groups – in this case Friends of Glasgow West and the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust) followed by detailed written feedback shortly after this dedicated session of the GUDP.
3.4 Following the GUDP forum, which ensured independent design review of the shortlisted bids, the second stage closing date was set for the four parties to provide amended proposals on 23 April 2015.
3.5 The highest scored offer was received from Expresso Property Ltd. … ”
Bear in mind that the members of the Design Panel who had seen the first version of four proposals, and who included amenity group representatives and design specialists, never ever saw the four amended proposals and had not favoured Expresso’s design in the first place.
Any Councillor, without the benefit of having like us made repeated FoI requests, review requests after refusals and appealing to the Scottish Information Commissioner over a period of nearly six months, would quite reasonably have inferred that Expresso’s bid had been favoured by a Panel which had included representatives of amenity groups. Elected members can hardly be blamed for this wholly misleading implication in the report. Note particularly that the report doesn’t actually state that the Design Panel thought Expresso was the best, but simply fails to disclose that the Panel thought they were one of the two worst!
Who exactly did then prefer Expresso’s design over the stifled consensus of the Design Panel? And how and why? And why was it so important to give Councillors a misleading impression of the opinions of participants in this flawed process? Answers please, somebody …
By the way, the ‘wonky roof’ is still part of the design.