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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday December 03 2009

Around a fortnight ago, in pursuit of more news about financially ill-advised skycrapers, I paid one of my occasional visits to London Bridge railway station.  I make these visits because, right next to London Bridge railway station, they are building the Shard of Glass.  Or are they?  Doubts have been expressed, by for instance Michael Jennings, senior commenter and emailer in of juicey titbits here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, and surely by many others, what with the economic state of the world just now.  Will the credit crunch etc. prevent this pointy grandiosity?  Or will they carry on regardless?

Well I can now report that if this is a going to be a bunch of tennis courts for the next decade, while they scrape together money to build something duller and less financially demented, as apparently happened in some city in Australia that Michael J will doubtless tell us all about in the comments, that’s one hell of an expensive clubhouse they are building there.

imageimageimage

As you can see (despite the rather dim light and consequent blurry photos – sorry about that), there are still ostentatiously confident looking signs on the fences around the outside, saying that this is indeed The Shard, and that there’s still a The Shard Website, which there is.  Most telling of all is the thin white column things going upwards at a slight angle, at just the same angle as the Shard pictures all say.

So, it would appear to be happening, folks!  And by the time it is completed, at which point Michael J will have to eat his laptop (a previous promise here), I may even have worked out how to do cheap home movies!

I’m very glad about the apparent progress of The Shard, but I’m also very glad that it’s not my money.  Qatar money, apparently.  That, and political money.  And whereas I think The Shard will look very fine just as soon as it nears completion, I also now assume that the architectural law that I air here from time to time, the one that says that the more splendid a new building is the nastier will be the things done inside it (most recently flagged up here in this posting), will in due course get another thuddingly depressing confirmation.  The Shard will surely provide many further nesting spots for politicians and their salaried hangers on and general buggerers up of the lives of us citizens, it being no coincidence that this big tower is going up only a short walk away from the testicular London Assembly building, and indeed, I suspect that this thing may end up being called not The Shard, but: The Prick.  I further suspect that a one reason why they are now making it the pointy shape it will be, rather than just a big regular tower, was in order to avoid that obvious nick-name.

But what the hell?  I’m glad they’re building it.

However, with Michael’s warnings in mind, whenever I mention The Shard, and how The Shard seems to be going ahead as planned, I always do some googling of the latest news about how things are going, and it would seem that the money is indeed proving to be something of a problem.

The developers are already trying to renegotiate.  But what they are trying to renegotiate is the amount of money they will contribute to the developments they had originally promised to help with around the base of The Shard.  The pubic hair of The Prick, you might say:

It has been reported that a formal submission for “significant reductions” from the agreed £6.5m was expected in a few weeks.

But, Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton told the ‘News’ the developer, Irvine Sellar, would find it difficult to renegotiate the agreed section 106 money, because he has signed a contract and some of the funding has already been allocated.

Cllr Stanton said: “I find it difficult off the top of my head to see why something which they are currently building out needs a reduction in section 106.

“Some of it’s earmarked for all the work to London Bridge station and for the whole Thameslink stuff.

“My gut feeling is they are going to have an uphill struggle getting over that if they really want to.”

Cllr Stanton added that as a planning authority the council would have to wait until a formal submission was made by the developers and make a decision on the future of the development then.

At the moment the money has also been allocated to training initiatives, £100,000 of improvements to Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, £500,000 into affordable housing, and a new pedestrian crossing.

Scheduled for 2012, when completed, the Shard will dominate London’s skyline and offer views as far as the Channel, with floor to ceiling windows in every apartment.

A spokesman for Irvine Sellar told the ‘News’ there was nothing accurate in reports published about the Section 106 money, but added that he “was not in a position to comment at this time”.

So what’s the betting that Michael J will be about a quarter to a half right?  The Shard will be built, but maybe it will then be surrounded by an area of blight, devastation, half finished railway constructions and general confusion, through which irritable Londoners will be obliged to thread their way, as irritatedly as they have had to for the last few years.

And perhaps The Shard itself, in the manner of this mighty (and mightily ill-advised) edifice, although finished, may remain empty for the first decade or more of its life.

Or then again, maybe they’ll just forget about that “affordable housing”, but otherwise carry on as if nothing had been happening in the world.