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01/03/2014

Desperate housing slithies will never run out of stunts

Jabberwocky © John Tenniel via Wikipedia

The whole world seemed to have fallen for localism, without realising that it was not intended to mean anything, blogs Chris Shepley

Another demented day at the think tank.
 
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves were conceptualising, gyring and gimbling in the wabe. There was tension in the air. The Jabberwock was on the prowl, and he had accused the think tank of running out of ideas. Since this was their purpose in life, it was not surprising that the slithies were in a bit of a tizz.
 
Lucinda and Ptolemy, who were on thought-ejaculation watch today, gathered round the borogroves, looking mimsy after a night of brainstorming in the cocktail lounge. They had a good record over the past few years. But stratagems were scarce today, and suggestions were in short supply. The Jabberwock would not be satisfied with just a bit more pernickety meddling with the Use Classes Order.
 
Their triumph, of course, had been localism. O frabjous day! The whole world seemed to have fallen for it, without knowing what it was, and without realising that it was not intended to mean anything. A failure that everyone thought was a success. Callooh! Callay! People thought they could do what they wanted, but in fact the Jabberwock was still in complete control. What an idea, what a triumph, what a coup. This had kept the slithies in bonuses and champers for four years, but now it was seriously outgrabed. 
 
Out there by the Tumtum tree, in the vicious undergrowth that was modern local government, in the frumious vaguenesses of the neighbourhood watches, in the hindersnugs of the local action cells, people had begun to notice. They wanted to stop things happening. But now they were being told by stern planning inspectors that they could, in fact, not. You must have houses, they were told, and they were starting to blame the Jabberwock himself, which was categorically not part of the plan. Lucinda and Ptolemy had temporarily held at bay the outrage of the great unwashed by tendering bungs – a tactic the Jabberwock so admired that he was now trying to assuage the uffish outcries of the fracktious multitude by paying people to have their villages undermined.  
 
The ylang ylang dispenser was set to max, and the brain-boosting effusion began to fill the visualisation space. We can’t just drop localism, thought the slithies. It’s been too successful. We’re stuck with it. And of course Labour started to burble similar burblings. Good news if they’re fraught with similar cock-eyed hollow promises, of course, but it still leaves the Jabberwock with a problem. 
 
And a problem recently aggravated by the slithies’ latest wheeze – a revival of the old but interesting idea of a garden city. Plumptious, of course, and even sensible (a new experience for the think tank); but therefore unpopular with the Jabberwock’s friends, who preferred something with superficial appeal but no actual impact on the ground. Something that civilians could not object to. Even the merest mutterings about this idea had half of Oxfordshire galumphing through the tulgey wood, with eyes that bulged with glorious rage. No wonder the slithies were nervous.
 
Ideas flowed painfully slowly. Cut down the 50 pages of guidance to five? Counter-argumentative – the 50 had already grown to 200 and were growing still. Build a railway, boys? Effulgent. End all that green nonsense? Mostly gone already. Auto-change of use from think tank to housing? Own goal.
 
The Jabberwock galumphed onward with eyes of flame. In the poem, of course, it had been slain by the beamish boy. There’s never one of those around when you need one. What to do? Where to go? ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves gyred and gimbled nervously in the wabe. The rest of us, though chortling sighs of relief that the slithies might have run out of stunts, were still worried that desperation would give birth to even more whiffling absurdity. We can only watch. And wonder. And hope. 
 
Chris Shepley is the principal of Chris Shepley Planning and former Chief Planning Inspector
 
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