Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Not a curate’s egg, but an ‘omelette of happiness’
Only our town halls stand in the way of an epidemic of garden castles
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt.
Tuesday 16 April 2013
If you really want to divide the Conservative Party, forget about Europe. Try granting householders the unfettered right to build themselves a conservatory, garden shed, or whatever else takes their fancy.
In the brave new deregulatory world inhabited by – say – George Osborne, it seemed a good idea to waive tedious council planning restrictions to allow 26ft extensions to sprout randomly across the country, reinforcing property owners’ rights and – allegedly – boosting the building industry.
Except that MPs rightly calculate that for every homeowner thus freed from bureaucratic constraints, there are at least couple of neighbours appalled at having to look at whatever excrescence is erected next door. Today’s debate on the Government’s latest planning wheeze – voted down in a Tory Lords amendment – had several novel aspects.
Faced with a backbench rebellion, the Communities and Local Government minister Eric Pickles announced a climbdown without actually saying what it was. He was, he explained, “aggrieved, distressed” by the concerns expressed.
He was sure that “even at this late hour we can actually establish a broad consensus”. He just needed a little more time to come up with something better.
But some dissidents were unconvinced. Cheryl Gillan, whom David Cameron must be wondering if it was wise to sack as Welsh Secretary, declared; “I am afraid we are not going to believe what you say at that despatch box until we see it in black and white.”
Pickles’ oddly conversational, laid-back, parliamentary style often makes it difficult to work out when he is being ironic. When Stewart Jackson, who rebelled on the issue like his fellow Tory Zac Goldsmith, said that local government was like a “curate’s egg”, Pickles excelled himself, declaring that on the contrary it was an “omelette of happiness and consensus”.
Addressing the point that only 10 per cent of planning applications by homeowners are rejected, Clive Betts, Labour chairman of the relevant select committee, said this took no account of “those that are never submitted for planning permission because they are so awful that people know they would be turned down”.
Suddenly we understood. Only our underappreciated town halls stand in the way of an epidemic of 9ft-high, eight metre square castles patrolled by garden gnomes.
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
Yemen crisis: Meet the child soldiers who have forsaken books for Kalashnikovs
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...