On a recent visit to City Hall I took time to look through the potential designs for the new Scotland Yard HQ and came away convinced that the Allford Hall Monaghan Morris submission was by far the best.
Of the shortlisted designs, theirs was the one which made an instant impression and felt most like a modern landmark London would be proud to show the world.
So without ever having knowingly met any of the design team, I was pleased when City Hall announced on Monday that it was their submission which had been selected.
Designing the outside of a building is perhaps the easiest part and a lot of work is now needed to further develop the project before a planning application can be made.
According to City Hall’s press release that work will be led by the architects and the Met, not by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime which will own the building and pick up the bill.
At the Assembly end of City Hall the MOPAC does not have a great reputation. Many AMs of all parties believe that it largely nods through Met initiatives and spending requests and fails to really question what it’s told.
As you’d imagine, MOPAC has a different view. Its senior ranks have previously assured me that the reason it appears to agree with the Met so often is because all points of difference are resolved before ideas get into the public domain.
It also insists it has the expertise and know-how to deliver maximum bang for the public’s buck.
The new Scotland Yard building gives MOPAC the chance to prove its claims are more than – as one AM suggested – self-denial and misplaced bravado.
While I’m sure we all want the new Scotland Yard to look as lovely on the inside as on the out, it would reflect poorly on MOPAC’s claims of competence if the Commissioner and his senior team end up with offices adorned in marble and boasting en-suite gold-gilt bathrooms.
Getting good value with public cash is always important, but it’s especially so given that many Londoners are being told there’s not enough in the kitty for a formica work bench and notepad should they wish to report a crime in person.
The MOPAC has made big claims about savings to be realised from the sale of the current Scotland Yard – £180m – and from the outset it needs to cap the percentage of that sum which is available to fit out the new HQ.
That figure should be published before the project starts so that we can all measure its success and, regardless of how many pleas there are from the Met, ambitions and aesthetic preferences should be forcibly downscaled to meet that budget.
Not a single extra penny should be allocated once the project is underway.
And to ensure we can all see where our money is going, as many of the plans and specs for the building as can be safely put in the public domain must be published and available to all.
The MOPAC needs – and needs to be seen to do so – to ensure that the Met sticks to its promises of building the smallest HQ necessary for the job and locating all but the truly core functions out in London’s communities.
It also needs be watchful that a force – which until 13 years ago answered only to central Government – doesn’t use the move to create itself a palace in the heart of Whitehall from which it can lobby to dilute or roll-back the relentless and robust scrutiny it’s now subject to.