Backhanders And Baksheesh For Planning Permission

Locals will soon be denied a say on building projects they hate. Prepare for rabbit-hutch homes, man-made calamities and an uglification of Britain.

In The Sunday Times, Jonathan Meades

wrote “One of the coarser ironies of the UK’s secession from the EU is that the government of all talents is rushing without thought or lecture to adopt a southern European tendency to build incontinently and inappropriately. This kind of construction is most evident on the coasts of Spain and Italy, where planning regulations exist, nominally, but are implemented by officials susceptible to backhanders and baksheesh.

“Corruption by pot-de-vin occurs, too, in France, where the system suffers from the effects of Mitterrand-era decentralisation, which grants inordinate powers to local mayors to sanction changes of land use. This has proved fatal: building beneath friable sea dykes causes people to drown in their beds; building on potential landslips is equally irresponsible.

“The UK can hardly claim that its own cumbersome planning processes are unsullied. For instance, in the 1990s the late architect Tony Rivers was told that he’d get permission for a shopping mall in a southern commuter town only if 15% of his fee went to a local architect who’d “see it through smoothly”.

“Four years ago an unholy alliance of St Nicholas Hospital, a Christian alms house in Salisbury, and the Earl of Radnor’s Longford estate just outside the city announced plans to build 100 houses on a meadow beside a canalised branch of the River Avon. According to the Environment Agency’s flood map of Salisbury, the meadow does not flood.

“The Salisbury Journal columnist Annie Riddle gamely published a photograph of the meadow. It showed a lake. The Barbour’d masses revolted. The planning application was withdrawn, although the thwarted developers’ PR operative, a delusionist with a promising political future, continued to insist that there was no flood. Under the new zoning system, another splendid gift from the impressive Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, he would get his way without a fight.

“Such events are doubtless a British norm. There is an increased awareness that the back yard in Nimby is not mine alone. The more land that is sacrificed to infrastructural monoliths, to buildings, to aggregates, to tarmac and concrete, the more pervious will these watery isles become to floods, bursting dams and associated disasters, unnatural disasters, micro-Anthropocene disasters. The back yard with cars in trees, collapsed bridges, floating furniture and societal chaos belongs to everyone. It’s ours. Just as local knowledge is ours, not that it counts for anything.

“The peculiarities of places are to be obliterated by startlingly crude standardised criteria devised by infantile vandals in their think tank sandpit. A levelling is to be applied with disregard for specifics. This is not merely political swinishness. It is an aesthetic crime. The absolute disregard for genius loci is a triumph of philistine stupidity”.

There is more in the excellent article, which needs to be widely read. Part 2 will follow soon.

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