Faith In The System

Is a fatal flaw. Vote for the same old crooks as last time and you’ll get the same old policies they promise and don’t deliver. Consider a couple of planning cases in Gloucestershire that were reported in the press this week.

At Tetbury, nearly 300 homes at two separate greenfield sites outside the town were approved on appeal by arch-‘localist’ Eric Pickles earlier this year. Objectors were appalled, complaining in a letter to a local resident, the Prince of Wales no less, that they are “horrified that central government has imposed this situation upon us.” Charles is renowned for his interventions in planning debates and he’s well-enough briefed to be able to point out when the architect has a massively inflated ego but isn’t wearing any clothes. However, as the Duchy of Cornwall makes a mint from extending any town or city anywhere it’s lucky enough to own the land, it’s unsurprising that he’s chosen to remain silent for once.

So if the Minister raises two fat fingers and the Prince turns a deaf ear, what then? Further north, Pickles granted permission last year for two major developments totalling 1,000 homes on farmland near the village of Bishop’s Cleeve, not far from Cheltenham. The local authority is Tewkesbury Borough Council and they weren’t having that. They took him to court, arguing that he had failed to apply his own policy of localism, enshrined in the Localism Act 2011. The judge backed Pickles’ freedom to use his powers to over-ride local opinion, upholding the letter of the law rather than its spirit.

Tewkesbury Council’s Conservative (!) Leader, Cllr Robert Vines, reacted with apparent shock: “The Act has not delivered what was expected and suggested by the Government when it was introduced, which was to remove top-down planning and transfer power to communities.”

Well spotted. And it’s a realisation that is dawning right across Wessex and beyond. You have been had.

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