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Purple is the new black at Camden planning

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AJ+.COLUMN

Conversations with architects lead you to the conclusion that planning departments are run by people expelled from prison warder school and refugees from the Stasi or other former Eastern bloc institutions.They certainly do not actually plan anything. Camden's is no exception. Its officers, legend has it, used to wear socks with sandals in winter and delivered a breathtakingly supercilious line in declining to adhere to the statutory eight-week limit on such grounds as having to go on staff selfawareness programmes.

Recently I was urged to look at its new website.Boy, it is fast.Text size can be altered, it fits the screen, there is little in the way of stupid graphics, it is almost all perfectly readable text and Jack Schofield would, I am sure, approve.

But performance is not all and the ghastly shades of reddish purple, plus the 1960s round-cornered menus, suggest that you might remember something in your next planning application: for Camden planners, horrid purple is the new black.Look at www. camden. gov. uk/planning.

If you have got a practice site, you might think of adding www. homecheck.

co. uk as part of your stickiness programme.What you do is type in your postcode or that of the site your client is about to buy.What then rolls down is a set of brief reports about flood, subsidence, radon, coal mining, waste, polluting industry and so on.

It is all to do with Section 57 of the 1995 Environmental Protection Act, which came into force a few weeks ago and effectively makes owners liable for cleaning up contamination on their site regardless. I tried it out on a local site and was a tad surprised at the low level of subsidence problems: presumably it knew that everybody had had their underpinning done years ago.Still, not bad.And there is the pleasure, the sheer Schadenfreude of telling your rival in that beauty contest you lost last year that he and the client are now building on a former gasworks. . .

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