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Ian Martin: Fiat sublux

Ian Martin
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Where the hip social cleansers of today will be living when they have children

MONDAY Adding decorative touches to my proposed Millennial Bridge in east London. Repetitive details. Endless scrolling. Panoramic multiple-selfie points. Pop-up street tents serving ten quid portions of category-fluid ‘bridge food’. Emoji gargoyles. 

I’m proposing motion sensor alarms to stop young people wandering off the Millennial Bridge, which in contrast to other bridges is engineered with a shorter tension span.

TUESDAY In the theatre of epic space there is surely no more noble an aspiration than ‘affordable homes’. Alas, in a world of ‘wider economic change’, this aspiration can so easily become a genuine challenge. 

That’s why we creators of alternative high-end lifestyles, we autrepreneurs, need power. The genuine, humane power to ‘ease’ the challenge of affordable homes by postponing them, at least until we’ve got this £1 billion investor-readable phase of the scheme out of the way. Nothing is too good for the affordably housed. These people, whoe’er they may be, deserve the very best. Let us not rush affordability. It’s far too important. 

WEDNESDAY Oh WHAT? Those cockpunnets at ‘Tamworth Planning Logistics – Part of the Ultima Deliverables Family’ have turned down yet another of my brilliant schemes. To wit, a sustainable pet crematorium plus garden of remembrance. I thought the whole point of a streamlined planning system was to speed things up, not stop them dead in their tracks with footling reservations about height, density, ‘trafficity issues’ and the unsolicited smell of charred cat in a residential area.

‘It’s a dia-bloody-bolical liberty!’ declares my fixer Rock Steady Eddie, banging his empty glass down. We’re in the Gherkin & Firkin, where so many of my ethical dilemmas seem to be resolved these days. I’m waiting for Eddie to signal that it’s my round but instead he’s texting furiously, with his tongue out. Always bad news. I wonder who …

‘Planning. This ends now. I’m invoking the right to trial by combat, same again son, how’s your whatever, swordsmanship …’

THURSDAY Under the ancient chivalric code of development control, determination of a planning application by combat must proceed unimpeded once the challenge has been flung down by an appellant or their pissed representative.

So it’s me versus Ultima Deliverables champion Malaysia Bingham. I’ve just looked her up on the planning website. Fuck. She looks as though she could drop a hippo with a single punch. My only hope tomorrow is to somehow disarm her. Oh, wait.

FRIDAY Malaysia looks impressive. Hefty, ferocious, weaponised. And a lot more supple than me, in my hired suit of armour which incidentally is quite tight around the waist and weighs a bloody ton.

I’ve nominated a version of rock-paper-scissors for our combat encounter. It’s called sword-axe-Section 106. I can barely lift the jute bag full of readies. ‘I shall strike the first blow!’ shouts Malaysia, medievally. Wait, I confidently shout back, I’ve got Section 106 cash here for the planning department to buy itself something nice! Nothing beats … ‘Permission refused!’ CLANG. 

Apparently taken an axe blow to the head.

SATURDAY Don’t remember much, to be honest. Eddie came to visit earlier. I remember some chuckling, I think. And a … pork pie hat, half-glimpsed? Perhaps he had someone with him.

A woozy memory of Eddie telling a nurse he couldn’t Adam and Eve it, some other bastard had got his Section 106 bribe in first. Instead of selling their plot of surplus land to us, those local authority muppets did a deal with a chancer who’s developing an entirely new ‘sublux’ prototype. More chuckling.

Ah, ‘sublux’. Luxury residential development in the urban tradition – cramped, high-density, expensive – but in suburban areas, where the hip social cleansers of today will be living when they have children. The enurbaning of the suburbs? Ridiculous. Although I’m sure I’ve heard the word ‘sublux’ before …

SUNDAY In the early hours, in my adjustable hospital bed, I remember. Eddie floated this sublux thing last year. I thought the concept was flawed, and sounded like a downmarket sex club. I passed on the idea. Now I recall Eddie sulkily muttering something about how auteurs are overrated, how architect-developers are the ones with whatever, vision.

Is it just the powerful opiates in my system, or did Eddie try to assassinate me through planning trial by combat in order to pursue his sublux masterplan with my arch-rival, the pork pie hat-inhabiting architect-developer Tim Hedgespam?

Illustration by Hanna Melin

Epic Space, an anthology of Ian Martin’s columns for the AJ, is published by Unbound

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