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Planning is how we plan for and make decisions about the future development of our towns, cities and countryside and generally plot how to best piss off our neighbours.
Teams of planners, working on behalf of local planning authorities are responsible for deciding whether a development - anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre - will piss off the general public too much, not enough or just the right amount.
Most new buildings or major changes to existing buildings or to the local environment need consent - known as planning permission. The process of obtaining planning permission is complex and only completely understood by a middle-aged admin assistant in Texas, also known as the 'Secretary of State', however what follows is a basic outline of the workings of the system.
Planning application forms
Planning application forms are available in three easy ways; by carrier pigeon, by summoning your local planning genie or visiting your local planning officer and reciting to the duty officer the phrase 'I beseche thee planning Wench, supply me with one of your finest planning application forms'.
Forms are also available in a variety of different formats, the most common and up-to-date being papyrus and slate.
All forms need to be filled out in triplicate before being sent to the local planning authority for them to assess. It is necessary to send three copies of all forms as for many decades, for matters of national security, the invention of the photocopier has been kept completely secret from all local planning offices. Alerting a local authority employee to the invention of the photocopier can result in the serving of an 'Enforcement Notice', which requires the alerter to immediately stop work and surrender their children to the Government.
Processing a planning application
After a planning application arrives, all being present and correct, it is usually 'registered' by the local planning authority. The registration process alerts the applicant that their application has been received by the local planning authority and perhaps more importantly allows the local planning authority to completely ignore it for up to seven weeks. This is standard practice.
In order to persuade the authority to stop ignoring their application, applicants are invited to annoy local planning officers as much as they wish. Telephone calls every other day at lunch and break times are the most popular ways of doing this. Following the fifth such attempt to contact the officer a 'Planning Klaxon' sounds at the local planning office and processing of the application can begin.
In reaching a decision on a planning application the planning officer must weigh the needs of the applicant against those of the general public and check whether they accord with local and central government guidance. Following this they are free to make their own decision according to whether the development looks nice, is located somewhere well away from their own home, doesn't smell and looks nice.