Diary: fracking free zone?

Diary reads with interest that Brent Council, in north-west London, is investigating the legal viability of declaring itself a fracking-free zone.

Pleasant as Queens Park and the borough's other green spaces are, it is unclear how high up the wish list of shale gas extraction specialists Brent actually is.

To be fair, Brent Council may have become overly concerned by looking at the Greenpeace-sponsored anti-fracking postcode-checker website www.wrongmove.org, which also lists Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral and Stonehenge as sites potentially at risk.

Brent Council's latest bid has reminded some commentators of the swathe of left-wing authorities that declared themselves nuclear-free zones back in the 1980s - one of which was, erm, Brent.

Next, news that local government minister Brandon Lewis, who was handed responsibility for town centres in last month's reshuffle, has sparked a row by reportedly describing a retail expert's high streets review as "a load of crap".

Lewis told the London Evening Standard that the review, published in September by Bill Grimsey, the former boss of DIY chain Wickes and frozen food store Iceland, had some "interesting points". But he added: "Otherwise a lot of it was a load of crap."

Grimsey hit back by telling the newspaper: "The evidence is totally against him."

Infrastructure planners gathered last week in Westminster to celebrate the 500th entry in Bircham Dyson Bell partner Angus Walker's blog on the impact of the Planning Act 2008. A surprisingly entertaining as well as informative read (sample headline - The Thames Tideway Tunnel: what's in the pipeline?), the blog now has more than 650 subscribers. In an admirably short speech preceding the drinks, Walker invited his guests to speculate which organisation had demonstrated the greatest need for information about the Act's implementation, judging by the number of staff subscribing. The answer was ... the Planning Inspectorate!

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