Diary: Committee work is child's play

Elected members are often tasked with making difficult decisions when it comes to planning. However, there are times when even councillors will concede that their job is little more than child’s play.

At a training session last month, consultants hired by Conservative-led Walsall Council to help overhaul how the authority is run instructed councillors to make Lego models to illustrate their ideas of ‘resilient communities’. Labour members were not impressed and accused the authority of wasting taxpayers’ money. “To have senior councillors playing with Lego is baffling,” said Matt Ward, whose model featured an Elvis look-a-like overseeing a community clear-up at the reins of a dog-drawn cart. A spokeswoman for the local authority explained that interactive exercises were “commonly used to engage audiences”.

Environmental campaigners recently declared turf war on communities secretary Robert Jenrick, in protest at the government’s decision to allow the expansion of an opencast coal mine in Bradley, Durham. Durham County Council rejected the plans from Banks Mining Group before a planning inspector approved the application on appeal. Members of the Extinction Rebellion protest group appeared outside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices last month (above left) where they dug up the lawn and dumped sacks of coal on Jenrick’s doorstep. The protest seems unlikely to prompt a reversal of the planning decision – but maybe some fuel for thought?

“Tall buildings are those that are substantially taller than their surroundings,” according to the draft revised Lambeth local plan. But planners at the London borough were left red-faced when local residents pointed out that one tall building proposed in the plan would not be that tall at all. A site at the centre of Waterloo roundabout had been earmarked for a 130-metre tower, intended to be the area’s tallest building. However, a document typo cut the height to 30 metres – no higher than neighbouring offices. “A correction has been issued,” said a council spokesman, adding that the rest of the plan contains correct information.

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