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Barrie Hudson column: Play the planning game
DID you read about John and Eileen Saveall, the elderly Swindon couple who face being chucked out of their one-bedroom home in Blunsdon?
They’d originally planned to breed pigs but there was a downturn in the market, and they’ve lived on the site themselves since 1991.
Although the Savealls are no trouble and get on with their neighbours, our planners say they’re breaking the rules, and must be chucked out of the place they love and into a council bungalow.
I hope they get to keep their home, but bearing in mind some of the planning-related goings-on here in recent years they should alter their strategy.
They should start by registering themselves as a great big building company and having some headed notepaper made up. Then they should start a rumour that they have a multi-million pound fighting fund at their disposal and a team of amoral QCs on speed dial.
Rather than trying to obtain planning permission for a harmless little home in which to see out the rest of their days, they should demand planning permission for about 600 houses ranging from cardboard-walled ‘junior executive starter homes’ at about 250 grand a pop to full-on mini-mansions costing the guts of a million.
Instead of getting along peacefully with their neighbours, they should have a plan drawn up to surround the neighbours’ homes with these new properties. The houses should be packed so closely together that people living in them could shake hands with one another from their kitchen and landing windows.
Planned gardens should be so deep in shadow that only lichens and toadstools would grow there.
Anybody currently living in the area who objects should be accused of being a selfish Nimby. Better yet, if a handful of ‘affordable’ homes are tucked in a faraway corner of the development, anybody who objects should then be accused not only of being a selfish Nimby but also an odious snob who hates nurses and teachers.
If anybody claims the planned new development would wreck the water table, cause devastating losses among protected species and be subject to flooding, mould, tsetse fly, black water fever and suchlike, they should be dismissed as a tree-hugging leftie who lives in an ivory tower.
The planning application should include plenty of promises to provide shiny amenities and services for the new neighbourhood.
These might include everything from schools, community centres and shopping precincts to a chocolate lake, free power from a giant perpetual motion machine and a cable car system with stops as far away as Torquay.
Each of these promises in the proposal should be followed by an asterisk, with readers directed to the back page. There, in print so small that it could be used to put the entire Book of Revelation on a grain of rice, should be a disclaimer saying the developer isn’t contractually obliged to provide any of these promised amenities.
In fact, the disclaimer should point out, the developer isn’t contractually obliged to provide any amenities whatsoever, and assumes no liability if roads go unpaved and water has to be drawn from a well.
The proposal should, of course, be filled with dark hints that any attempt to thwart the builders will be met by a ruinously expensive appeal which would deprive Swindon of resources for basic services.
If certain previous cases are anything to go by, Mr and Mrs Saveall should have no problem obtaining planning permission.
Then it’d be a simple matter of scaling back the plan to include just their own little house and blaming current economic conditions.
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