John Prescott, the man whose affection for the motor car has earned him the "two Jags" nickname yesterday launched new guidelines for town planners - aimed at reducing the involvement of the automobile with the urban environment.
Indeed, the Deputy Prime Minister launched a positive tirade against the "motorway cities" such as Birmingham which had handed themselves over to the motor car in the 1960's "smashing motorways through the centres of their cities and forcing pedestrians underground".
Mr Prescott was sharing a platform with the Prince of Wales at a conference on "traditional urbanism" designed to promote the Prince's ideals of sustainable communities within urban planning. The Deputy Prime Minister made it clear the Prince's oft-criticised ideals for small but beautiful urban development now took centre stage in Government thinking. The Prezza and Chazza show was staged, of course, in the gritty but fashionable community of Shoreditch in east London, which, with its relentless traffic jams and crumbling assortment of offices, lofts and factories, is about as far removed as you can get from the Prince's suburban utopia of Poundbury in Dorset, where his ideals have been put into practice.
But for Charles, particularly, this is really where his heart lies, where his friends are. In this artfully restored old building with its polished boards and exposed brick, no one was going to ask awkward questions about Paul Burrell or "alleged incidents with Royal servants" but rather about his feelings for "organic urban growth" and "high density environments".
And, to be fair, few could argue with his passionate plea for new buildings and urban developments to be "people-centred places" with a coherence of design and planning reflecting public needs, using local craftsmanship and with good open spaces and public transport.
His foundation is working with planners and architects in Britain and Europe to create environments in which, to use the words of Mathew Line, its chief executive, buildings are "loved and cherished". But, despite the love-in with Prezza, Chazza did manage to get in a barb at the Deputy Prime Minister's backing for the "Shard of Glass" office block at London Bridge station, a development he admitted was "controversial", but gave the "wow" factor necessary in great architecture, such as the Dome. For Prince Charles this was too much: this "salt cellar" was, with Norman Fosters' Gherkin, he said, turning London into some kind of "absurdist picnic table".
Mr Prescott declared himself deeply impressed with Poundbury, whose critics, he noted, are representatives of the very people whose designs for cities in the 1960s gave us the backdrop for A Clockwork Orange. He gave full endorsement to the Prince's ideals. "Community coding" will enforce the principles of sustainable developments and these ideals, he said, would be at the heart of the planning system.
The biggest test will be in the development announced yesterday, the plan for 10,000 homes on brownfield sites at Barking in the Thames Gateway, a public-private partnership that is the first of its kind. "Town and cities," he said, "have to have a sense of place." Then he was off back to the other place in town, where urgent business awaited. And by official Jaguar, of course.Reuse content