Diary: McVey calls for the A-Team

Housing minister and former GMTV presenter Esther McVey paid tribute to some television stars of a different era when talking about a new scheme to boost council planning resources.

The real A-Team. Pic: Getty Images
The real A-Team. Pic: Getty Images

In a speech describing government plans for a crack team of planners and designers to be sent into struggling local authorities, McVey drew comparisons with a band of fictional TV mercenaries. "It doesn’t matter if it’s boosting capacity or plugging gaps in labour and expertise, if you have a problem, maybe you can hire the planning A-Team," she said. "I want to boost our planning departments – to help you to fast-track projects, accelerate regeneration and provide the advice and technical know-how that’s needed." While one could accuse the housing minister of needing to update her cultural references, channelling the spirit of Hannibal and his fellow mercenaries does at least make a certain kind of sense – they always loved it when a plan came together.

You could call it a daring example of dazzling architecture. Unfortunately, a man who built an observatory in his back garden has been told by Huntingdonshire Council to demolish the structure. Stargazing enthusiast Melvyn Thurlbourn built a large white fibreglass dome on top of his garden shed but failed to seek planning permission. Now his retrospective application has sparked opposition from neighbours. One disgruntled resident said the observatory’s "highly reflective glare" meant he was unable to use his garden and was "so bad that I cannot keep my curtains open unless I even wear sunglasses inside my own home". Thurlbourn has appealed the decision. If successful, he’ll no doubt be counting his lucky stars.

Congratulations to members of the team at planning and development consultancy Rural Solutions, who raised more than £5,000 for charity after putting in a very long day at the office. Staff used four stationary bikes to cycle in relay and pedal the equivalent of the 874-mile distance from John O’Groats to Land’s End in slightly more than 12 hours, starting at midday and finishing just after midnight. The money raised will go the Country Trust, which educates children about the connection between food, animals and nature.

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