Giles Dolphin retired this month from his role in charge of Strategic Planning at the GLA, a position he has occupied since the GLA was first established in 2000.
His retirement drinks party last Friday night was quite a do and the turnout was extraordinary and perfectly fitting to have both Boris and Ken present ? the latter heckling ?bollocks? when Boris talked about his ?magnificent administration? as Mayor, adding to the jovial atmosphere. It is rare to find one room full of senior developers, local authority planners, architects, heritage groups, politicians, planning consultants and other advisors but there we all were staying till late to salute Giles.
The warmth for Giles was palpable and for once I absolutely agreed with the speeches from both Boris and Nicky Gavron praising his achievements and the mark he has left on our great city.
It is worth remembering that when the GLA Bill was first proposed, there were many who feared the introduction of a new layer into London?s planning system. They said planning was complicated enough and that this would lead to inevitable delay and complicate matters further. There were others who claimed it was all pointless anyway as the Mayor had few real powers ? remember all the ?Ken? clauses designed to stop a Livingstone administration having any real power.
But the success of the GLA?s strategic planning functions has been in large part down to Giles?s vision and skilful handling. It quickly became a much respected function, providing clear guidance and swift responses, even though it unquestionably provided a tough time for developers especially in the early years as it led the charge on affordable housing, environmental sustainability, transport investment and open book appraisals. Developers often found themselves managing competing agendas between the Borough and the Mayor and there cannot be a major developer in London who has not at some point had to rely on the advice of Giles at a critical juncture. Giles has also had to navigate the transition from Ken to Boris when at the time there was similarly a great deal of uncertainty.
I first worked with Giles in the mid to late 1990?s when doing the PR for the old London Planning Advisory Committee and it was nice to hear from Nicky Gavron too about his contribution in this era as well.
He leaves behind a very able team but his loss from the GLA will surely be felt.