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Signoff: David Taylor

I'M VERY glad to hear that David Blunkett is putting his weight behind this new scheme to set up a Construction Industry Training Centre at Lindholme Prison near Doncaster.

The prison has recently been slated for the appaling conditions the inmates have to endure.

With a bit of training and the right tools, the inmates will now be able to either spruce the jail up a bit or, alternatively, dismantle part of it and leave those appaling conditions behind.Very proactive.

NEWS That war has broken out in the small but very competitive world of concrete pumping should get the pulse racing.This is because any spat between rival concrete pumping firms is seldom conducted in a spirit of gentlemanly rivalry.

Concrete pumping is specialised.The equipment is horribly expensive. Pump hirers operate on waferthin margins.And they hate each other with a passion.At least, they used to when I last had anything to do with them.

Normally, when you ring up a plant hire company and explain you're a struggling hack from Construction News, they feel sorry for you and treat you sympathetically.You can often get a nice news story or even a feature out of them.They're nice people.

But when - many years ago - I called a certain concrete pump hirer to ask about hire rates, the person at the other end of the line reacted badly and offered to come round to my flat and fill my living room with 30 Newton concrete.And that was just the receptionist - can you imagine how scary her boss was?

MY FRIEND Simon the architect is spitting bullets over CABE's decision to award the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award to the A650 Bingley Relief Road in West Yorkshire.

What upsets him, of course, is that architects don't design roads - engineers do.And as CABE is supposed to be about architecture in the built environment, giving the prize to a 'slab of tarmac' is an insult to the architectural profession.

When news of the controversial decision came through, I phoned Simon for his reaction, knowing of course that his response would make good copy.

He didn't disappoint.'Let's see the concept design, then, ' he demanded.'Let's see the actual back of the actual envelope.That's how real designers work, unless they smoke, and even then the health warning's so big there's barely enough room for a sketch.'

When I suggested that engineers don't work like that, all I got was a hollow laugh and 'I rest my case' 'Go on then, what else was on the shortlist?'

challenged Simon.Well actually, I explained, there were two other roads, one bridge, a viaduct and a bit of Trafalgar Square as well as the A650.One of them, I teased, was even on his doorstep: the A6116 Rockingham Road, near Corby.

'Pah!' he spat, 'most of the time it's littered with heaps of burnt-out cars. I suppose they're part of the engineer's concept design are they?'

Of course, there were some real buildings on the shortlist too, so I felt I'd better let Simon know that, for example, the A650 had pipped Lincoln University's Architecture Building to the post.He was un-moved, though: 'I know it. It's rubbish.'

How about Raines Court, the funky new housing scheme for Peabody Trust? 'Prefab junk.What else?'

City & Islington College of Life Long Learning Centre? 'I've never heard of it, but it's obviously just a pleaser for the New Labour trendies.Go on.'

Well, there's the Brookley Road Public Conveniences in Brockenhurst, Hampshire.'That's the one.Ask any architect: a public bog is to the built environment what the haiku is to poetry.The distillation of our craft; a masterpiece in miniature and very demanding. I'm doing a lavvy myself at the minute - remind me to show you the envelope.'