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In the papers today: 05.02.08

Recession, what recession? That appears to be the opinion of the international super-rich.

The Evening Standard reports that the number of properties in central London sold for more than £5 million was 40 per cent higher last year than in 2006. Most of these, according to posh estate agent Savills, were in Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Belgravia, with Russians and, newly, Indians, among the growing number of overseas buyers.

And even scruffier bits of the city are going upmarket, with the Standard also reporting that the 'busiest burger bar in Britain' at Piccadilly Circus, is to shut and be replaced by a posh fashion store such as Abercrombie & Fitch.

But there is gloom elsewhere. The Chartered Insitute of Purchasing & Supply (there's a catchy title) is reported in today's Independent warning that Britain's construction sector is growing at the slowest rate for 16 months, and that this is an additional argument for a reduction in interest rates.

Nor are these the best of times for London's mayor, Ken Livingstone. The Standard writes gleefully that 'Ken Livingstone has been dealt a fresh blow after an independent investigation raised serious concerns with £18.5 million of grants handed out by his London Development Agency'.

Equally gloomy for many architects is the fact that Prince Charles is garnering support for his latest assault on skyscrapers. Even Michele Hanson, an old lefty in the Guardian, comes out in support of the Prince, asking 'How tall and mad does architecture have to get before its wilder practitioners are carted off in straitjackets?'. And letter writers in that paper respond to Will Alsop's article on Saturday defending towers. His most stringent critic is Tony Hughes, director of Space Nation Architects, who ticks him off, saying, 'It is a shame that Alsop has wasted his high-profile voice on vague trivialities, instead of taking the chance to address the real issues to a wider audience, and consequently championing the role of architects as the facilitators and guardians of an exciting and sustainable future for our cities.'

Find this all too depressing, and yearn to get away? Well, you may find it easier soon, if an EU-funded design for a hypersonic passenger plane reported in the Guardian comes to fruition. The flight will take only five hours – and apparently it is super-green as well – except that it might damage the ozone layer. There's a cloud to every silver lining...

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