Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

You Couldn’t Make It Up (No. 42)

Like most people, I am not keen on wasting time sitting in traffic jams. Therefore I’ve decided that I must have a dedicated lane for myself, John Prescott style, between my home and the Civic Centre – paid for, of course, by the taxpayer. Since I can’t get it on expenses (ah yes, councillors’ expenses: not as exciting as you might think) I am going to have to develop a “psychological aversion” to waiting in traffic. That’ll work. Not.

However, that is the justification for the additional demand for more sites for travellers and gypsies, which feed into proposed new targets that could be incorporated into the London Plan. This is over and above existing demand arising from overcrowded sites, “unauthorised encampments” and the like. The definition of this additional demand for gypsy and traveller sites comes straight from government guidance which defines such need as – and I quote – “a psychological aversion to bricks and mortar housing”. Quite how such finicky tastes in architecture can carry such weight in the formulation of housing strategy is beyond me, since I suspect the preference isn’t likely to be for trendy glass and steel, wattle and daub or “green” methods of construction.

I’d like to think, in my innocence, that someone in the civil service has an ironic sense of humour, and put the definition into a draft document in a facetious vein. Sadly, however, the civil service doesn’t do humour, so it stayed in, and thus will probably generate a goodly amount of work for both the equalities and town planning industry for years to come.

The research that gave rise to the targets was commissioned via the pre-Boris Greater London Authority, and it may be too much to hope that any post-May 2008 purge has reached as far into the beast as to remove those Livingstone-ites responsible, so once again we in the Boroughs must man the barricades.

I’ve left the best ‘til last, though: there has been no public consultation on the proposed targets. Even the London Borough councils have not been invited to comment. Instead the targets and their questionable justification will be buried incorporated into the draft London Plan which will, of course, be consulted upon, along with the myriad of other issues that it throws up, such as green belt, housing densities, parking standards, and so on. It’s quite possible that the first time the ordinary resident becomes acquainted with the “psychological aversion to bricks and mortar housing” will be when a groups of sufferers set up on a previously green field near their home, and the planning inspector allows it to carry on, because targets have to be met.


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