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19/01/2015

Dad’s army tackles the planners

Words:
Dad's Army 1 by Oivind Hovland

What would happen to planning if we put Dad's Army in charge? We won't like it up us, says Chris Shepley

Chris Shepley“Stand at ease. Now pay attention, men,” said Captain Cameron. “We’ve got to write a manifesto. And we’ve got to build a lot of houses. But all the obvious places are in the green belt, which is closed for the duration of the war – I mean election campaign. Anyone got any ideas?”
 
Sergeant Clegg asked to be excused, explaining that whatever the platoon decided would be unacceptable to him, even though he would probably have agreed with it a year ago. He whistled softly in the corner as Private Pickles suggested that if they changed the use of all the existing buildings to houses this would solve the problem without upsetting the voters. He’d already made a start. “Stupid boy,” said Cameron. 
 
“I’ve got a bit of brownfield land I could let you have cheap, no questions asked,” said Private Osborne.  “Only trouble is, it’s up North.” 
 
Cameron thanked him, and said that he had heard of the North; but all the jobs were in the South. 
 
“But we’re going to have a powerhouse in the North,” squeaked Private Osborne. They all agreed that the North was the best place for a powerhouse.
 
Warden Farage burst into the room. “You don’t know what you’re doing, you lot,” he said. His policy was not to increase the number of houses but to reduce the number of people in some unspecified way. “I’m going to build a wall around the green belt and not let anybody in. I’m off for a pint!”
 
In the office next door, Rev Miliband was trying to memorise his sermon. He didn’t have the answer either. As Sergeant Clegg thought, and Private Pickles pretended to think, he believed in letting local people choose. But like the others, he’d noticed that local people didn’t usually choose the right thing. The platoon agreed that doing anything effective might upset somebody somewhere. Though they had assumed responsible positions of leadership, this excluded any aspects of leadership, which might prove unpopular.

"The aim of the exercise is to infiltrate Botolph Lane, blow up the RTPI, and withdraw without being noticed"

“Never mind all that,” said Captain Cameron. “This weekend we’ve been given the honour of going on manoeuvres. The aim of the exercise is to infiltrate Botolph Lane, blow up the RTPI, and withdraw without being noticed. This should deal a crippling blow to the enemy. It’s a very important mission, because they are the ones we’ve been blaming for not building houses. But now they seem to be bursting with good ideas. We’ve spent five years trying to eradicate the Hun – I mean the planner – and we’re not giving up now.
 
Dad's Army 2 by Oivind Hovland“They want to build garden cities and urban extensions; they want to put a tax on the development of land and use the cash for popular things like roads and hospitals; they want to give more powers to local government, of all people – I know we say we want to do that, but it would be disastrous. They want us to build a lot of council houses and even to look again at the green belt, just because it dates from the year dot, or maybe before that.
 
“Superficially, these might seem like good ideas. They might mean that the housing crisis was solved. We don’t want that! We’ve fought to stop namby-pamby socialist ideas from invading this country, even if they work. We’ve fought on the beaches for whatever it is we believe in, and to keep the value of our houses as high as we can. By golly, we’re not going to change now. These planners have got to be stopped. They’re dangerous. So come on men; let’s save the market economy!”
 
There was a chorus of support. “They’re doomed,” said Private Gove. “They won’t like it up ’em,” added Corporal May. They headed off in a tank towards the target.
 
It is understood they’ve lost their way.
 
Chris Shepley is the principal of Chris Shepley Planning and former Chief Planning Inspector
 
Illustration by Oivind Hovland

 

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